By Rabbi Dovid Markel
The verse states, “Shake yourselves from the dust, arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; free yourself of the bands of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”
On this the Medrash states that this verses statement “shake yourself from the dust” is “like a chicken that shakes itself from dirt.” What is the comparison to a chicken that the Medrash wishes to teach us?
The Chassidic mentor R. Shmuel Gronem-Estherman used to explain this concept as follows:
It is the nature of chickens that they play in the dirt to the point that their feathers are completely absorbed in the filth. No matter how much a person may try to clean the chicken, there will always be more residual dirt that still clings to it. It is almost impossible to cleanse.
However, the moment the bird gives itself a shake, all the dirt instantaneously comes off.
So too is it with people. It is impossible to be cleaned by other people and unrealistic to wash others. Only we are able to cleanse ourselves of our grime and our sins. But all that sin and mud that seems to cling to us and be so difficult to remove can be done away with—with one earnest shake.