The Bible Says What? ‘Crows aren’t all bad in the Torah’

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The Bible Says What? ‘Crows aren’t all bad in the Torah’

Rabbi Danny Rich takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a liberal Jewish response

Crow (Photo by Tyler Quiring on Unsplash)
Crow (Photo by Tyler Quiring on Unsplash)

There is one bird that appears several times in the Bible and which, to this day, continues to evoke fear or disgust. The crow. 

 The four species of crow – three black and one hooded grey – found in Israel are referred to as ‘unclean’ (Leviticus 11:15). 

The Mishnah further records that metal spikes were placed on the roof of the Temple to prevent crows landing, presumably because they might steal meat from the sacrifices and their raucous ‘cawing’ might disturb the services.  

This haunting cry of the crow has enhanced its portrayal as something unpleasant or evil and its reputation as a killer of baby birds and a scavenger of all types of dead meat, including from roadkill and rubbish bins.  

Yet there is a Biblical story (1 Kings 17:2-6) where crows are portrayed positively.  

The famous Hebrew prophet, Elijah, has predicted a drought upon the kingdom of Israel ruled over by Ahab. 

 For a reason that is not wholly clear, God instructs Elijah to hide in a wadi at C’rit, which is located on the other side of the River Jordan.  

While there, on God’s instructions, crows appear twice a day –
in the morning and the evening – bringing both meat and bread for Elijah to eat. 

 If you have ever watched an unkindness or a murder (the collective terms) of crows squabbling over a run-over squirrel or a mouldy loaf of bread extracted from a bin, it hardly seems likely that the story is true – but have faith!  

God has remarkable ways of sustaining and protecting those who listen to the Divine voice and showing loyalty to those who work to fulfil it.  

  •  Rabbi Danny Rich is a vice president of Liberal Judaism 

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