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The Bird with a Jewish Soul
By Brigitte Goldberg
It's funny how a person cannot see something that might be unique or amazing inside one's own home. I really never thought twice about the fact that my bird caused something so miraculous to occur. I made aliyah almost 1 ½ years ago from Florida, each and every person that hears my story about Pickles, my bird, can't believe that such a thing can happen. Each person tells me to write about it, after all that's my profession. It has taken me 1-½ years to write about it, but after much thought, I also believe that Pickles, the bird, did something quite amazing. You see, Pickles must of have been born with a Jewish soul, that's the only explanation I can find for his strange behavior and for the effect it had on one Jew.
When we decided to make aliyah, I naturally assumed that Pickles, named so because he reminded me of a pickle, would join us on our journey to Israel. Evidently Pickles was meant for a far greater cause. Pickles was an Indian Ring Neck that was sitting all alone in the pet shop. Not one person wanted to have anything to do with this bird. When I asked about him, I was told that he was a vicious bird and not one good thing will ever come of him. I really liked him and wanted to know the cost. I bought him for half price, since otherwise he would never move from the store. As I left the store with my new-feathered friend, I asked the owner if he'd ever talk to me? The owner replied, "of course not, he will never do anything worthwhile!" That storeowner couldn't have been more wrong in his whole life.
I put my new pal inside the kitchen, so that he'd be able to interact with me and never feel lonely. Pickles was vicious and therefore could never be held, this did not stop me from trying to make friends with him though. I respected his space and spoke to him all day long. Whenever I was stressed out, upset or angry, Pickles would hear all about it. He was so cute sitting at the edge of his cage, looking at me like he understood me completely.
One day, I was in the living room and heard my husband call my name. I was quite sure that my husband was not home. I checked outside to see if his car was in the driveway, it was not. Again, I hear his voice calling "Brigitte". Maybe the phone was off the hook? This was getting very scary. From where was he calling me? I ran through the kitchen and stopped dead in my tracks. My husband wasn't calling me at all, Pickles, sitting by the edge of his cage, was calling me in my husband's voice!
I just stood there in complete shock, how did he do it? The owner of the store told me explicitly that he would never talk! I couldn't believe it, I knew now that this bird was something special. The next day, my son Nissan comes running to me asking what I wanted. I told him that I never called him; what was he talking about? We both ran into the kitchen and looked at Pickles. At that moment Pickles call out Nissan again, in my voice. Over the weeks, Pickles picked up many phrases but nothing would be able to prepare us for what Pickles would pick up a couple of months before we were to make aliyah!
Pickles loved Shabbat; the sound of us singing made him really excited. He would chatter away and become quite noisy. Nothing prepared us for the shock we were about to get. Havdalah (the ceremony at the end of the Shabbat) was always held in the kitchen, lights off and close to Pickle's cage. When the lights would go off, he would hang on the edge of the cage, open his eye's really wide and have the time of his life. We thought it was amusing, what bird likes to hear Havdalah?
After a couple of weeks though, Pickles put us all in to shock. When we would get to the part about the blessing over the wine, Pickles would recite the blessing. We thought we must of hear wrong, but the very next week, Pickles again recited the blessing over the wine. Who ever heard of such a thing? I loved this bird more then anything in the world, and was so excited to bring him with us to Israel.
As the time came closer to our aliyah, I started to make preparations for Pickles. I assumed that everything would be all right, since I spoke to El Al and they had no problems with birds on flights. We lived in Florida and El Al left from New York, we had to go from Florida to New York and that's where the problems began. I naturally assumed that the bird would be no issue, since El Al allowed them on, so I waited till almost the last minute.
I called Jet Blue airlines to find out the procedure for bringing pets along and that's when I was told about their policy. Dogs and Cats were allowed, no birds. How was I going to get my beloved Pickles to Israel? I called a pet transport service, it would have cost me double the amount of my ticket to fly Pickles to New York and then join me on El Al, plus they couldn't guarantee me that he would make it in time to meet my flight. This was all too much for me, I couldn't stop crying, and I didn't want to go. How could I leave such a special bird behind and to whom?
I called my Shaliach in Miami to find out what was possible to do in such a horrible situation? When I finished telling him, he told me that he always wanted a bird as a pet; he loved Pickles and would be willing to take him for me. I wasn't so excited, I wanted to take him with me, not leave him behind.
After many weeks of attempting to find the solution, I knew in my heart that Pickles wasn't going to make it to Israel with us. My husband kept telling me to give it to the Shaliach, he was a great man and he would take good care of him. I couldn't let that man take my bird, he's not religious, how will he make Havdalah for Pickles? I called up our Shaliach and told him that I would give him my bird under a condition. I explained that I knew that he wasn't religious and that I wasn't trying to religion upon him, but Pickles really loved to make Havdalah after Shabbat. I explained that Pickles knew the blessing over the wine and I just couldn't let him go to someone who couldn't make Havdalah for him after Shabbat. The Shaliach told me that he had no problem whatsoever making Havdalah for the bird after Shabbat, if that's what made the bird happy. I agreed to let him keep Pickles.
The Shaliach arrived a week before my scheduled aliyah. He arrived with a huge cage for Pickles and an assortment of toys. He pulled me aside and told me not to worry, that he would take as good care as him as I have. Then he pulled out a Siddur, Havdalah candle and spices to smell. He explained that he had no clue how to make Havdalah; he went to a Rabbi and asked what he needed and how to do it. I was so touched I started to cry.
I'm crying now as I write this, just the memory of Pickles and how this one man was willing to make a sacrifice for my bird, touches me so much. I said goodbye to my bird with the Jewish soul, I knew that I would never find another like Pickles. Before we left, I constantly checked up on Pickles, he was doing so well. I was never able to hold him; we had a relationship from within his cage. The Shaliach was able to hold him and take him everywhere, and they immediately bonded to one another.
I was assured that Havdalah was being recited after every Shabbat and I knew my time had come to move on. I would check up on Pickles often and just tell myself that that's the way things were meant to be. A couple of months ago, the Shaliach called my husband. What my husband told me, sent shivers down my spine. I was completely in shock and couldn't believe it. After a year of making Havdalah for Pickles, our Shaliach decided to keep Kosher and to put Tefillin on. When my husband asked him why, he replied that all his life, everybody has been telling him what to do in regards to religion; this turned him off his whole life and refused to keep anything.
Pickles never asked him for anything, he simply loved him for making Havdalah for him and made him realize that this is what he wants. Nobody was telling him what to do anymore; it was his decision and his decision only now. The shaliach just wanted us to know that he is grateful to our bird and to us. He just wanted us to be proud of the special bird with a Jewish soul.
Nobody can tell in life where that spark will come from. Evidently humans are not the only ones capable of igniting the flame of holiness inside us. Life works in mysterious ways. I was completely devastated about loosing the bird that meant so much to me. It was obviously not my bird and the Shaliach ended up receiving, while I ended up being the Shaliach. We should always keep our eyes open and our ears listening, one never knows where the message comes from.
from the March 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine