Feeding Birds on Shabbat Shira is Holy

As the saying goes, there is a Jewish holiday for every kind of Jew. Including Bird lovers.

There is a very holy Jewish custom — some scholars say this started in Jerusalem — to place out food for wild birds on Shabbat Shira when we read the torah portion of Beshalach. Why? One of the main reasons is because the birds ate the manna that Dathan and Aviram had spread out on a Shabbat morning in an effort to discredit Moses. Dathan and Aviram tried to undermine Moses’s authority by showing that the manna also fell on Shabbat, even though Moshe said it would not. The birds, meanwhile, watched Dathan and Aviram spreading out manna on Shabbat morning, and do what good birds do, they ate it all. This spared Moses some embarrassment, and helped protect his reputation. As a way of showing our gratitude, we feed the birds this Shabbat.

Rabbi Yehuda Prero brings an additional reason from the book, Sefer HaToda’ah. “The chirping of birds is not just idle song. It is the way that birds praise G-d for providing them with their needs. Because, on this week, we too sing praise of G-d, we recognize the constant song of praise chirped by the birds by feeding them, as a form of reward.”


But feeding wild animals on Shabbat seems to be against Halacha?! Yes, and no.

For a good discussion of the Halachic ramifications see “What’s Bothering Rashi?

It is completely forbidden for Sephardic Jews to feed birds on Shabbat. Just kidding.