On Eagle's Wings (Ha'azinu)

Weißkopf-Seeadler auf der Jagd nach LachsenEvery time I see a bald eagle soar, my heart soars, celebrating the return of this majestic, intelligent bird to the Pacific Northwest.

So I love verses of Torah that speak of God as an eagle.

I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to me. (Ex. 19:4)

This verse presents a simple metaphor. The words describe an eagle, but the context makes it clear God speaks about God’s own rescue of the Israelites from slavery. Together, words and context inspire you to focus on God’s raptor-like qualities. God sees clearly, God flies high, God is loyal to God’s flock.

Like an eagle who rouses its nestlings, gliding down to its young; so did God spread wings and take them, bear them along on pinions. (Deut. 32:11)

This verse is more complex. In form, it’s a couplet typical of Biblical poetry. The first clause makes a point; the second amplifies and extends it. But the content here is unusual — because the second clause is a a bit of a tease.

Notice, says the first clause, how a powerful eagle approaches its children compassionately. Now, says the second clause, stop thinking about the eagle and think about God. Stop thinking about the biological world and think about the spiritual world. Because what we say here about God is not true of an eagle. A flying eagle cannot carry its babies on its back, or push its fledglings forward with its wings. But God, infinitely more powerful than the eagle, can do something like that.

What exactly does God do? That question, as Aristotle would say in his analysis of metaphor, is for you to answer. In what way does God carry you? Push you forward? Challenge you? Invite you to think for yourself?

Image: wikipedia.

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