The Wisdom of Israel, by Edwin Collins, , at sacred-texts.com
The Holy One, blessed be He, extends His mercy equally to animals and to human beings. He is as full of compassion for the tiniest birds of the air, as for the cattle. This is shown by the command (Deut. xxii. 6–7), "If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way . . . thou shalt not take the dam with the young. Thou shalt in any wise let the dam go . . . that it may be well with thee and that thou mayest prolong thy days." This is what the Scripture sayeth (Prov. v. 6), "Lest thou weigh the path of life, her ways are moveable, thou canst not know them." Rabbi Abin bar Cahana explains, "lest thou weigh the path of life," to mean, "do not sit and weigh the commandments of the Torah, do not say, 'since this commandment is a great one I will fulfil it; for the merit and reward will be very great, and as this other commandment is an unimportant one, I do not perform it.'" What did the Holy One, blessed be He, in order to guard men against this error? He did not reveal the reward attached to each several commandment, so that all men might fulfil all the commandments.
This may be likened to a king who engaged labourers and took them into the midst of his park (pardees) and did not tell them what would be paid for the different kinds of work there, so that they might not neglect one thing, the wage for which was small, and all go and do another thing, the wage for which was abundant. When the evening was come, he called each one of them and asked:
[paragraph continues] "Under which tree didst thou labour?" One answered, "I laboured under this tree"; and the king said, "That is a Palpal, the pay for that is a gold piece." To another who pointed out the tree under which he had worked, he said: "That is an olive-tree, the pay for that is two hundred zuzzim," and so on throughout the whole park.
Then the labourers said unto him: "Was it not necessary to tell us which tree was the most precious, or that for the cultivation of which the highest wage would be paid, so that we might work beneath it?"
But the king answered and said: "How, then, would all my park have been cared for?"
In like manner the Holy One, blessed be He, only revealed the reward attached to two of the commandments, the greatest among them all and the least; and the reward for each of these is length of days, as it is written (Exod. xx. 12), "Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long, etc." and "Thou shalt in any wise let the dam go . . . so that thou mayest prolong thy days."
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Rabbi Berachya says, There are evils that smite a man like the arrow of a huntsman smites a bird, and that fly like a bird; but the Holy One, blessed be He, has said, "If thou wilt keep the command of mercy, and let the mother bird go free, thou shalt be saved from all dangers such as she fears," as it is written (Ps. xci.), "Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow which flieth by day"; and "He will deliver thee from the fowler's snare, etc." There are some commands
for the keeping of which the reward is wealth; others for which it is honour; but for this one, the pious man, if he be childless, shall be rewarded with children. For you must not render verse 7 "Thou shalt let the dam go and take the young to thee," but "Thou shalt let the dam go, and thereby thou wilt gain children for thyself"; if thou art merciful to the mother bird, thou, also, shalt be an honoured parent.