If you send away the bird, why is Shiluach HaKen called that, meaning "sending the nest", and not "Shiluach Hatzipor", "sending the bird"? The nest is staying in place!

  • see artscroll's introduction to mesechta kinnim found in the gemara along with miela and tamid, it addresses this phraseology at length.
    – rachav
    May 11, 2012 at 16:38
  • I would guess that, similar to the English word nestling meaning a bird to young to leave the nest, the Hebrew word ken can refer to the adult bird (of either gender) protecting the nest. (If I were surer of my guess I would give this as an answer.) Jul 10, 2012 at 18:33

3 Answers 3


I think that the most straightforward answer to this question would be to suggest that, in Rabbinic Hebrew, קן ("nest") is also used metonymically to refer to the bird itself. So, for example, throughout Tractate Kinnim of the Mishna, where kinnim (קנים, "nests") is a way of referring to the birds.

There are numerous examples of rabbinic metonyms. Another would be "house" for "wife". In Shabbat 33b, to give but one example, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's wife is referred to as his "house". Jastrow lists this meaning as the fifth definition of בית. He also lists "birds" as a definition for קן together with its primary definition, the nest that they are in.

  • Ken means specifically a pair of birds, AFAICT, and only one bird is sent from the nest in shiluach haken.
    – msh210
    Oct 17, 2019 at 22:14

In R' Naftali Weinberger's book of Sefer "Shalai'ach Tishalach, A Practical Guide to the Mitzvah of Shiluach Kakan" (Published by Feldheim 2006) He writes in connection to the strange use and phraseology and says, "In response to this question, some explain that the term שלוח הקן is in fact a contraction of the phrase שילוח האם שמתיר את חקן sending away the mother bird, which permits the removal of [the contents of] the nest. For the sake of brevity and simplicity the Mishnah employs the first and last word of this phrase, resulting in the familiar appellation shiluach hakan." Sefer Hamitzvos L'Rasag (c. 1846 - 1934), Negative Commandment 137) I've now completed a full discussion on this question. See here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WvYLXbb1b4fyZIB_2vqupsbVW8xjPb9n/view?usp=sharing

  • Dirshu quotes ובפי' הגר"י פערלא על הסמ"ג (ל"ת קלז ד"ה אמנם בעיקר) כ' ש"שילוח הקן" פי' שילוח שמתיר את הקן as a source for the idea of the contraction. dirshu.co.il/…
    – NJM
    Aug 26, 2020 at 2:45
  • Your answer seems to explain what this means, "sending away the mother bird which permits the removal of the contents of the nest". I was just giving you a source.
    – NJM
    Aug 28, 2020 at 12:13
  • Thank you for the source. Aug 30, 2020 at 1:49

Shiluach Haken - you are sending the bird away from the Ken - from the nest.

  • 1
    But in kidush hayom, nichum avelim, bikur cholim the second word is the patient.
    – msh210
    Nov 16, 2011 at 1:41
  • Bu Nichum Aveilim the Mitzva is to be Menachem the Aveil, by Bikur Cholim the Mitzva is to visit the sick, and by Shiluach haKen the Mitzva is to send the bird away from the nest. Nov 16, 2011 at 16:26
  • 2
    Aveil, sick, and bird are all direct objects in those phrases, while nest is the object of an adverbial preposition. The parallels are working against you.
    – Double AA
    May 11, 2012 at 7:26

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