Pirate for a Day
My amazing Jerusalem adventure with a green parrot.
Growing up, I was fascinated with animals. My bed-sheets were leopard print, I had lizards and snakes as pets and I could name every type of purebred dog just by looking at it. At 11-years-old I was breeding lizards, monitoring the eggs in an incubator, raising the baby lizards and then selling them to the local pet store in my town!
Me and my lizard
Despite my passion for animals, I didn’t grow up to be a veterinarian or own a zoo like I thought I would. Instead, I pursued a career in comedy and television. I worked for years as a writer and producer for late night TV shows like The Late Late Show with James Corden and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
However, when my wife and I got married we decided to leave our Hollywood careers behind to spend a year living and learning in Israel. Before every Shabbat, I would walk down the Jerusalem streets to buy my wife a bouquet of flowers. One Friday afternoon, on my walk back home, I noticed something strange sitting on the ground.
There it was. A tiny green parrot sitting with its feathers puffed out. I had no idea there were green parrots in Israel! The little boy in me came to life.
I bent down and walked closer to the parrot. I picked up a stick and surprisingly the parrot let me get extremely close. Within seconds, he jumped on the stick and I knew right away that this wasn’t a wild bird. This was someone’s pet!
In yeshiva, I had just learned about the Jewish mitzvah of “hashavat aveida,” returning a lost object. I thought to myself, “Maybe someone is looking for their parrot and this is my opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah!” How many people in Israel own a green parrot? I thought for sure I’d find the owner. I’ll bring the parrot home and then post in WhatsApp chats or search online to see if anyone in the area was looking for their lost bird.
I walked home and the parrot (which couldn’t fly because its wings were clipped) climbed up my shoulder. As I walked through the Jerusalem streets, looking like a pirate, people began to stare.
Arriving at my apartment, after a couple of knocks on the door my wife unlocked it and I quickly yelled, “Don’t be alarmed! He won’t bite!” The look on her face was priceless. “Is that real?! Where did you find it?!” I explained the whole story to her and we found a makeshift place for the parrot to live in our apartment.
We started posting in groups and calling people in the Har Nof neighbored to help us spread the word. As Shabbat was quickly approaching, my wife and I realized that we didn’t have the proper food to feed this parrot. A friend of ours called and said, “You need to get in touch with Rabbi Boruch Chait. Here’s his number. He has parrots and knows all about them. He’ll be able to give you bird food and maybe even help you find the owner.”
I called Rabbi Chait and told him my predicament.
“Where do you live?” he asked.
“In Har Nof on HaKablan…”
“Great, I’m actually driving down HaKablan right now. I’ll stop out front and pick you up. You can come back to my house and I’ll give you some bird food.”
“Amazing, thank you so much!”
With only 45 minutes left before Shabbat Rabbi Chait picked me up and drove me to his home. As we were taking the elevator up to him home, Rabbi Chait asked me what I do and why I’m in Israel. I explained that my wife and I had just got married and came to Israel to live and learn. He asked me what I used to do for work and I explained that I used to be a writer for comedy shows in Hollywood, but I wasn’t going to pursue that anymore.
“Why won’t you go back to writing for Hollywood?” he asked.
“I don’t want to work with celebrities anymore and a lot of the jokes that they want you to write are inappropriate. That’s just what sells in the industry,” I responded.
Then, Rabbi Chait told me something amazing. “Well if God gave you this talent of writing, he must want you to use it for something. Maybe you could write for children’s books. That’s what I do,” he said. (He is also the Rosh Yeshiva of highly regarded yeshiva high school.)
As we walked into his home, he prepared a bag of bird food for me. Before I left, he gave me one of his famous children’s books, “The Incredible Voyage to Good Middos” and encouraged me to pursue this type of writing career. I thanked him and left his home.
As I was racing back to my apartment, I looked down at the artwork on the back cover and I couldn’t believe what I saw: A picture of a pirate with a green parrot on his shoulder!
It looked just like me earlier that day. This has to be a sign, I thought to myself. As a believer in the Creator of the universe, I believe that everything happens for a reason. There’s no such thing as “coincidence.” Maybe the reason why I found this parrot was to lead me to Rabbi Chait to inspire me to write for children’s books or to keep me writing in general.
In the days to follow, I discovered that the parrot was actually a ring-necked parakeet. They live in the wild in Israel and some people own them as pets.
My wife and I were unfortunately unsuccessful at finding the owner of the parrot. But we were put in contact with a family in the Jerusalem area who loves parrots. Their family parrot passed away the same day that I found this parrot and they were extremely upset. No coincidence. I contacted the family and offered to give them this one as a new pet and they jumped at the opportunity. An hour later, they came to our apartment with a birdcage and picked up their new parrot.
This whole chain of events got me thinking. How often do we go through life not noticing the little signs and sometimes even the big signs that are sent our way? There are messages all around us. Sometimes they even come in the form of a tiny green parrot.