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CHASSIDIC DIMENSION: Manna – An Eternal Bread (Beshalach)

Chabad.org
Beshallach
Shevat 8, 5774 · January 9, 2014

Manna — An Eternal Bread

At the conclusion of Beshallach,1 the Torah describes the manna, the heavenly bread that was the Jews’ staple during our 40-year sojourn in the desert. Included in the tale are the facts that the manna did not descend on Shabbos, and that a portion was sequestered as an eternal keepsake.

The Zohar2 comments that although the manna did not descend on Shabbos, it was on that day that it was blessed from above, so that it would descend during the following six days of the week. Why was the blessing secured on a day when themanna did not fall? Evidently there is an intrinsic connection between Shabbos and the manna.

Earlier on, Rashi comments on the verse3 “In the morning you shall behold G-d’s glory,” as follows: “When it [the manna] descends in the morning, you will behold the glory of His illumined countenance. For He shall cause it to descend unto you in a loving manner — in the morning, when there is time to prepare it, and when it is sandwiched in dew.”

We thus see that not only did the Jewish people receive the “heavenly bread” with a minimum of effort, but also that it was provided by G-d in a “loving manner,” so as to further minimize the labor involved in obtaining it.

The manna is thus entirely similar to Shabbos, the day granted by G-d for the purpose of rest, tranquillity and delight.4

Although the manna did not descend on Shabbos so as to assure that the day be one of complete rest (and a double portion therefore descended on Friday5), the centrality of the Shabbos theme to the manna was such that the blessing from above that it descend during the six weekdays came about on the day of rest.

In light of the above we can better understand why the manna was secluded together with the ark6 for an everlasting remembrance. In doing so the Torah provides an eternal lesson to all Jews with regard to the procurement of sustenance: even when a Jew must toil for his daily bread, his sustenance still contains something of themanna.7

A Jew’s sustenance8 is directly commensurate with his degree of spiritual service — “If you follow My commandments, I shall provide rain in its proper time.”9Understandably, since a human being’s service is limited, the sustenance he receives must be limited as well.

The other nations of the world, however, receive sustenance independent of their spiritual service. It therefore follows that their sustenance is not subject to the limitations imposed upon the Jew.

But this limitation only applies to the quantity of the sustenance. With regard to thequality of G-d’s beneficence, the Jewish people have the advantage, inasmuch as G-d provides our livelihood in a “loving manner” and with the “glory of His illumined countenance.”

G-d does so, because the Jewish people are ready to forego the greater quantity of sustenance that we could have obtained in the manner of the other nations, and opt to receive our nurture directly from G-d in accordance with our spiritual activity.10

This quality was clearly seen in the manna. On the one hand the manna was strictly limited in quantity — an omer per person.11 Yet this limited amount was provided by G-d in a “loving manner,” with delight and with the “glory of His illumined countenance.”

And just as G-d endowed the manna with a vesture of His delight, so too with regard to the Jewish people, who received G-d’s bounty with delight.

Thus the manna was not only received without toil, but the Jewish people were also able to taste within it any flavor we desired.12 Moreover, along with the manna there also descended many kinds of precious jewels13 — the main purpose of which is to stimulate joy and delight.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXI, pp. 85-91.

United In Song

The Torah portion of Beshallach describes how, after “Israel beheld the mighty hand which G-d wielded against the Egyptians, … Then Moshe and the children of Israel sang this song (shirah) … and they declared saying: ‘I will sing….’ ”14

It is self-evident from this verse that Moshe began the shirah before the children of Israel did.15 But there is a dispute in the Gemara16 as to what portion was sung by the Jewish people:

According to R. Akiva, only Moshe recited the entire shirah ; the nation merely responded: “I will sing to G-d.”

R. Eliezer maintains that the Jews also recited the entire shirah , but only after (and in response to) Moshe’s recitation.

R. Nechemiah contends that Moshe only began the shirah alone, after which he and the people recited the remainder in unison.

What factors underlie the Sages’ dispute?

The Or HaChayim17 remarks that “The Jewish people sang the shirah in absolute unity, without difference and separation between them; they were like one person. This explains why the verse uses the singular term ‘I will sing,’ and not ‘We will sing.’ ” And this would also explain why the recitation had to begin with Moshe, for such utter unity can only be accomplished by Moshe, the head and leader of the generation, who encompasses all the Jewish people as one within him. As Rashi states:18 “Moshe is the Jewish people and the Jewish people are Moshe … the head of the generation is likened to the entire generation, for the leader is all.”

Since Moshe initiated the shirah on behalf of all the people, their singing came as a result of being empowered by him, and they were thus able to sing “as one person.”

This is the intent of the Mechilta in its comment on the verse: “Then Moshe and the children of Israel sang…” The Mechilta notes: “Moshe is equivalent to all the Jewish people, and the Jewish people were equivalent to Moshe at the time they sang theshirah.”19

In light of the above, we may discern the reason for the different opinions regarding the manner of recitation:

Since the shirah had to be recited in such a way that all Jews were united, all agree that it had to be started by Moshe — the one individual capable of bringing about unity and equality among all Jews. Moreover, the recitation by the Jewish people resulted from their uniting their shirah with Moshe’s, sensing as they did that “the Jewish people are Moshe.”

The difference in the three opinions is merely in the manner of the nation’s recitation as it relates to the people’s unification with Moshe:

According to R. Akiva, only Moshe recited the entire shirah ; the Jewish people merely responded: “I will sing to G-d.” In other words, the people fulfilled their obligation to recite the shirah through Moshe’s recitation. For R. Akiva maintains that the Jews were so nullified before Moshe that they fulfilled their obligation through him by merely responding: “I will sing to G-d.”

R. Eliezer maintains that the Jews “repeated whatever he said.” According to R. Eliezer, absolute unity is only achieved when the Jewish people sense it within themselves; they themselves recite the shirah, and each feels it on his or her own individual level. However, the nation did so only in response to Moshe — they felt wholly dependent upon him.

Rabbi Nechemiah, however, concludes that absolute unity can only come about when “all said the shirah as one,” stressing that “Moshe is the Jewish people and the Jewish people are Moshe.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXXI, pp. 69-72.

FOOTNOTES
1. .Shmos , Ch. 16.
2. .Beshallach 63b; Yisro 88a.
3. .Shmos 16:7.
4. See also Nachlas Yaakov (quoted in Sifsei ChachamimBereishis 2:3.
5. .Shmos 16:29 and commentary of Rashi.
6. .Yoma 52b.
7. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 176ff.
8. With regard to that which follows, see Kuntres U’Mayon, Maamar 7ff.
9. .Vayikra 26:3.
10. See Or HaTorah , Savo. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 280 and sources cited there.
11. .Shmos 16:16.
12. .Yoma 75a.
13. .Sanhedrin 58b.
14. Shmos 14:31-15:1.
15. See Shmos Rabbah on this verse (conclusion of 23:9).
16. Sotah 30b.
17. Shmos, ibid.
18. Bamidbar 21:21.
19. See also commentary of Mirkeves HaMishneh on the Mechilta, ibid.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

PARSHAH PICKS: Why the Need to Split the Sea? (Beshalach)

Chabad.org
Shevat 8, 5774 · January 9, 2014
General Overview:
In this week’s reading, Beshalach, Pharaoh pursues the Israelites into the desert. The Red Sea splits, the Israelites cross the sea while the Egyptian army is drowned. Moses and the Israelites sing a special song thanking G‑d for this miracle. The Israelites complain about a lack of food and drink. G‑d sends Manna and quail for them to eat, and miraculously produces water from a rock. Amalek attacks the Israelites and is soundly defeated.
This Week’s Features Printable Parshah Magazine

By Yehoshua B. Gordon
PARSHAH

Exodus 13:17–17:16

Pharaoh changes his mind, and chases the Israelites. Trapped between their pursuers and the Reed Sea, the Israelites panic, and G‑d splits the sea for them. In the desert G‑d provides water, manna and quails. Two portions of manna must be collected on Fridays, enough for Friday and the Sabbath.

COLUMNISTS

A lesson on why the Jews needed to travel through the Red Sea

By Aron Moss

Is it possible to be spiritual and selfish at the same time?

By Yossy Goldman

On the Essence of Prayer

Like divers who plunge to the depths of the sea in search of treasures, we submerge in the murky waters of a material world in order to uncover buried divinity. And like divers, we too must come up for oxygen. Prayer is that breath of fresh air…

By Mendel Kalmenson
VIDEO

Letters and Numbers of Torah – Beshalach

After fighting a war with the nation of Amalek, Moses says (Exodus 17:16) “There is a hand on the throne of G-d [swearing] that there shall be a war of G-d against Amalek from generation to generation.” In this verse, G-d’s four-letter name is missing the letters vav and hei. What is the connection between the completion of G-d’s name and the defeat of Amalek?

Aaron L. Raskin
Watch Watch (25:00)

Parsha Beshalach

Manna, the bread from heaven consumed by the Jewish people for forty years in the wilderness, is superior to regular bread in three specific ways. These three qualities may also be compared to the qualities of Shabbat, the day of rest. (Based on Likkutei Sichos vol. 16.)

By Moishe New
Watch Watch (39:52)

Study some of the highlights of the weekly Torah portion with insights from various commentaries.

By Elimelech Silberberg
Watch Watch (1:00:19)
AUDIO

A five minute weekly Torah thought based on the teachings of Chassidut.

By Berel Bell
Download Download   Listen Listen (5:56)

minute weekly Torah insight based on the wellsprings of Torah and Chassidut.

By J. Immanuel Schochet
Download Download   Listen Listen (6:25)

TORAH STUDIES: Parshat Beshalach

Chabad.org
Shevat 7, 5774 · January 8, 2014
Beshalach

This Sidra relates the story of the division of the Red Sea, its waters parted by a powerful wind sent by G-d. When the wind ceased and the waters closed on the pursuing Egyptians, we are told that “the sea returned to its strength.” Why did the Torah add this extra phrase? The Midrash finds an allusion in it to the condition (the words “strength” and “condition” in Hebrew are composed of the same letters) which G-d made with the Red Sea when it was first created, that it should part its waters for Israel when the time came. The Rebbe explores this theme in depth, analyzing in general the part which natural objects and forces have to play in G-d’s design for the universe.

1. The Division of the Sea

“And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea and the sea returned to its former strength at the turning of the morning; and the Egyptians fled towards it; and the L-rd overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.”1

The Midrash2 comments on this that G-d made a stipulation at the time when the Red Sea was first created, that it should divide itself for Israel when they needed to cross it. This is the meaning of the phrase “the sea returned to its former strength,” namely that it “kept to the terms of the condition which I stipulated from the beginning” (a play on the words “condition” and “former strength” which have the same letters in Hebrew).3

But the Midrash is difficult to understand. For the verse refers, not to the fulfilling, by the sea, of the undertaking to divide; but clearly to its returning to its former state, closing its waters over the pursuing Egyptians.

An answer has been suggested.4 In the Talmud,5 Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair tells the River Ginnai to divide its waters and when it refused, he told it “If you do not do so, I will decree that no water shall flow in you forever.” If the same were true of the Red Sea, then its returning to its former strength would be evidence of its having fulfilled its agreement with G-d.

But the answer itself is incomplete:

(i) It suggests that if the Red Sea had not divided, it would not only not have had its strength returned, it would not have had any waters at all. The verse, on the other hand, suggests that only the full strength of the Red Sea hung on the agreement, not its very continuance as a sea.

(ii) In any case, the Midrash sought to couple the words “full strength” with the word “condition.” But the explanation makes the Sea’s strength only a consequence of its previously fulfilling the condition and does not link it with the condition itself.

2.The Condition Made at the Beginning of
Creation

We can resolve the first of these difficulties by the explanation given by the Maggid of Mezeritch6 (which he had heard from the Baal Shem Tov). At the time of the creation of the world all the objects of nature were created on the condition that they obeyed the will of righteous men, even if it ran counter to their normal physical laws.7 So that if they did not do so, not only would they cease to exist: It would be as if they had never been created. In other words, had the Red Sea not divided, it would not only never have water again, its whole previous existence would be obliterated. So that when the verse tells us “the sea returned to its former strength,” it is conveying that in the fulfilling of its agreement with G-d it both assured its future continuity and at the same time ratified its past existence.

This point may be difficult for us to understand: For though we know what it is for something to be obliterated, surely its past existence is an objective fact, which cannot be retroactively removed? The mental block we have in comprehending this possibility is because of a two-fold secular conception to which our minds tenaciously cling: Firstly, that objects have a real and independent existence, and secondly that our time-scheme (in which we cannot reach back and change the past) is the only possible one. Both conceptions are false in Judaism. In the first instance objects only exist because G-d continually creates them; in the second instance, time is a human conception, one by which G-d is not bound (indeed, one which G-d created and so, obviously, can stand aside from). It follows that if G-d decides to “uncreate” something, He can do so retroactively and by removing its whole (past as well as future) being. The closest analogy in human terms (and one which is germane to the subject in hand) is that of a conditional legal agreement. If the condition is not fulfilled, it is not that the agreement suddenly terminates, but rather that this establishes that the agreement never came into being.

3. Two Kinds of Miracles

But the second difficulty still remains: That the sea’s returning to its strength was a result of and not the same as its fulfilling its condition.

To resolve this we must understand why the Midrash needed to comment on the phrase “the sea returned to its strength.” What is problematic about it? The answer is that since the phrase “the sea returned” would have sufficed,8 there must be some additional point made by the phrase “to its strength.” Now why should we doubt that the sea’s strength would return? Is there any ground for thinking that its parting, to leave dry land for the Israelites’ crossing, permanently “weakened” it, so that a second miracle was needed to restore its force?

Now we can discern two distinct types of miracles:

(i) The miracle which transforms the whole nature of a thing, so that a second miracle is needed to return it to its original state (for example: When G-d made Moses’ hand leprous as a sign of the authenticity of the revelation at Horeb? He performed a second miracle in turning it back).9

(ii) The miracle which only changes the appearance or form of a thing, leaving its essential character unaltered, so that when the miracle ceases it returns to its earlier state of its own accord (like the rivers which were changed into blood, the first of the ten plagues, which later returned to water without further miracle:10 For the rivers, were not essentially transformed: They still remained as water when the Israelites drank from them.)11

Therefore, if we were to say, that the division of the Red Sea was of the first kind, it would follow that a second miracle would be needed to return it to its former state. This is what the verse negates by informing us that the Sea returned “to its strength,” i.e., that the Sea had only changed externally, but not essentially.

But in fact we cannot say this, for the Torah already stressed that the Sea was only kept in its divided state by constant vigilance: “And the L-rd caused the sea to go back by a powerful east wind all the night.”12 From which it is clear that, had the wind dropped, it would have returned to its flowing of its own accord, so why need the Torah stress in a later verse that the Sea returned “to its strength?”

Therefore the Midrash implies that the extra information conveyed by telling us that the Sea returned to its strength, must be that it had its whole previous existence ratified by its fulfillment of G-d’s condition. And even though it had fulfilled it by dividing rather than returning, the sign of its fulfillment was evident only when its waters were restored.

4. Temporal and Eternal Existence

But why did G-d need to make an agreement with the Sea, and why particularly at the moment when it was created? For His power over His creations is unlimited and He could have divided the Sea when He wanted and without its “consent.”

Rashi’s comment that the world was created “for the sake of Israel and the Torah’’13does not simply mean that it exists to allow Israel to perform G-d’s will on earth, but more strongly that by Israel’s service the world itself is sanctified into becoming a “dwelling-place” for G-d and thus brought to its own fulfillment.

Thus by stipulating at the outset that objects should change their nature when it was necessary for the sake of Israel, G-d wrote this miraculous possibility into their very constitution. So that when miracles occurred, this would not be an interruption of their normal purpose but a continuation and fulfillment of it.

And indeed this makes their existence of an entirely different order. They become not things which exist for a while and then pass away; but rather things whose destiny is (by the very nature of their creation) linked with that of Israel. And Israel is, in the deepest sense, eternal. They are, to G-d “the branch of My planting and the work of My hands.”14 And this makes natural objects far more than the instruments of Israel’s progress (for they would then be bound to their natural functions only); but instead they are embodiments of G-d’s will (even when this involves a change in their nature).

This is why the Midrash connects the fulfilling of its agreement with G-d with the sea’s return to its strength, rather than with its division. For while it was divided to reveal dry land, it still did not show the vindication and eternalization of its existence (for it could have been a (change and) negation of its nature). Its true fulfillment came only when its waters returned. And when they returned, it was to their “full strength,” not simply as they had been before, mere waters of a sea, but as the eternal bearers of G-d’s will for the destiny of His people.

(Source: Likkutei Sichot, Vol. VI pp. 86-94)

FOOTNOTES
1. Shemot 14:27.
2. Bereishit Rabbah, 5:5; Shemot Rabbah, 21:6. Zohar, Part II, 198b.
3. L’eitano—Lit’nao. Cf. Baal Haturim on Shemot 14:27.
4. Yedei Moshe, commentary on Bereishit Rabbah, loc. cit.
5. Chullin, 7a.
6. In his book, Or Torah. Quoted in Hayom Yom, p. 20.
7. Cf. Bereishit Rabbah, 5:5.
8. Cf. e.g., the previous verse—Shemot 14:26—“that the waters return.”
9. Shemot 4:6-7.
10. Shemot 7:19-25.
11. Shemot Rabbah, 9:10.
12. Shemot 14:21.
13. Bereishit 1:1; cf. also Bereishit Rabbah, loc. cit.
14. Isaiah 60:21.
Adapted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks; From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

TORAH STUDIES: Parshat Beshalach

GARDEN OF TORAH: The Expression of Inner Good (Beshalach)

Chabad.org
Shevat 8, 5774 · January 9, 2014
The Expression of Inner Good
Beshallach; Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 188ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Beshallach, 5732, 5735

A Name Should Be Telling

The division of the Torah into weekly readings was not made at random, nor is the choice of the names of those readings a phenomenon of chance. The name of every reading is a capsulized summary of the reading as a whole, and expresses its fundamental theme.

This week’s reading contains many significant narratives demonstrating G-d’s love for the Jewish people, and the Jews’ response to Him. It tells of several of the more striking miracles in our people’s history: the splitting of the Red Sea, the descent of themanna, and the victory over Amalek. And with regard to the Jews’ response, it includes the song at the Red Sea so powerful an acknowledgment of G-d’s hand as to enable even the most common person to attain prophecy.1

And yet the wondrous nature of these events does not seem to be reflected in the name of the Torah reading. The Shabbos is called Shabbos Shirah (“the Shabbos of Song”) recalling the song at the Red Sea, but the name of the Torah reading,Beshallach, meaning “When he sent forth,” has no obvious reference to these happenings. On the contrary, Beshallach has negative connotations, implying that we had to be sent forth from Egypt against our will. The Torah attributes the “sending forth” to Pharaoh; it was he who motivated us to leave Egypt.

Why It Was Pharaoh Who Sent Forth the Jews

Describing Pharaoh as the agent of the Exodus points to one of its purposes, and alludes to our ultimate mission within creation. To highlight this factor, G-d told Moshe at the very beginning of the process of Redemption:2 “With a strong hand, [Pharaoh] will drive them from his land.”

For the intent of creation is that this material world and all of its elements be transformed into a dwelling for G-d.3 This includes even those elements which at first which oppose the forces of holiness. Ultimately, every aspect of being will serve a positive purpose.

In certain cases, as with Pharaoh, a transformation is necessary first. In their original state, such people cannot serve a positive purpose, so “their destruction is their purification;”4 i.e., only when they are broken will their positive nature be revealed.

This concept is highlighted by prophecies of the Redemption which state:5 “And I will rid the land of dangerous animals.” Our Sages interpret this to mean,6 the animals will be transformed, so that they will no longer cause harm, as it is written:7 “The wolf will dwell with the lamb.” In the era of ultimate good, predators will continue to exist, but “they will neither prey, nor destroy.”8 Their negative tendencies will be eliminated.

G-d’s intent in creation was not merely to reveal the unbounded spiritual light within material existence. Were this His purpose, He would not have created a material world, for revelations in the spiritual realms are far greater.9 Nor is His purpose merely to nullify the influence of those entities which oppose holiness, for then their creation would not have contributed anything. Instead, G-d’s desire is that every aspect of existence become part of His dwelling. And just as a mortal’s dwelling reveals the character of its owner, every element of G-d’s dwelling is intended to reveal a different facet of His Being.

As a foretaste10 of this ultimate state, the name of our Torah reading focuses on the transformation of Pharaoh. The other miracles mentioned also involve the negation of undesirable influences and/or the expression of wondrous spiritual forces, but by directing our attention to Pharaoh’s role in sending forth the Jews, the nameBeshallach underscores the message that even the most perverse elements of existence can generate positive influences.11

Looking Beyond Exile

A question, nevertheless, remains unresolved: Why was it necessary for Pharaoh to send the Jews out of Egypt? Why weren’t we eager to leave?

One might say that we had no reason to hurry. After the initial plagues more than six months before the Exodus the enslavement of the Jewish people had ended.12 The Jews were living in the most select portion of a rich land,13 and the Egyptians were ready to give them anything they wanted.14 Moreover, they also had spiritual sustenance, for our Sages relate15 that yeshivos functioned throughout the Egyptian exile. Why then should we have desired to leave Egypt? What did we have to gain?

Our Sages state that all the people who did not want to leave died in the plague of darkness.16 All the Jews who remained wanted to leave. They realized that living in exile even amidst security and prosperity is not a Jew’s purpose.

Why then did Pharaoh have to force us to go?

To Evoke a Higher Will

This question can be resolved on the basis of a parallel concept: G-d had promised Moshe that He would give the Jews the Torah, as it is written:17 “After you lead the people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain.” The Jews rejoiced in this promise, and eagerly counted the days until it would be fulfilled.18 When they reached Mount Sinai, they camped in a spirit of oneness.19 And yet we find, that “G-d held Mt. Sinai over them,”20 apparently compelling them to receive His Torah. If we were so eager, why was this necessary?

The point is that there are levels of desire. G-d wanted the Jews to accept the Torah with a total commitment, with feelings so powerful that it was as if our lives depended on it. We were not capable of summoning up this level of commitment on our own, so G-d compelled us to reach this peak through external means.

Similarly, with regard to the Exodus, G-d wanted the Jews to desire freedom with a deeper-than-ordinary will. Therefore He brought about circumstances that awakened profound and encompassing commitment.

Gentle Force

Beshallach is also a lesson in our relations with others. Every Jew possesses an inner desire to follow the Torah and its mitzvos.21 Nevertheless, for this desire to manifest itself in deed, a friend is often needed to gently lead one to a deeper level of will.

This concept is connected to the Redemption. For one of the qualities Mashiach will manifest is an ability “to compel all Israel to strengthen their Torah observance.”22

Why compulsion? Because Mashiach will awaken a level of soul that will motivate each of us to a commitment that surpasses our individual will. We will feel that something beyond ourselves is pushing us forward, and propelling us to positive efforts.

The manifestation of this commitment will in turn enable Mashiach to fulfill his mission:“ fight[ing] the wars of G-d… and succeed[ing], build[ing] the [Beis Ha]Mikdashon its site, and gather[ing] in the dispersed remnant of Israel.” May this take place in the immediate future.

FOOTNOTES
1. Mechilta, quoted in Rashi, Exodus 15:2.
2. Exodus 6:1.
3. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Bechukosai, sec. 3.
4. Keilim 2:1.
5. Leviticus 26:6.
6. Toras Kohanim on the above verse.
7. Isaiah 11:6.
8. Ibid.: 8.
9. For an explanation of this and the concepts to follow, see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, p. 18ff, and the sources mentioned there.
10. This was indeed only a foretaste, for the transformation of Pharaoh was not fully complete at the time of the exodus. Shortly afterwards, he experienced yet another change of heart and pursued the Jewish people.
11. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, p. 33ff and other sources which offer a similar explanation in interpreting the reason the Alter Rebbe (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, ch. 430) gives for the observance of Shabbos HaGadol (“the Great Shabbos,” theShabbos preceding Pesach). The Alter Rebbe states that this Shabboscommemorates the miracle of the Egyptians’ firstborn rebelling against Pharaoh and demanding that he release the Jews. What was so great about this miracle? The transformation of darkness to light it represents, that the Egyptians themselves demanded the Jews’ release.
12. Rosh HaShanah 11:1.
13. Genesis 47:6.
14. Exodus 12:35-36. See also Rashi’s commentary.
15. Yoma 28b.
16. Mechilta, quoted by RashiExodus 13:18; see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XI, p. 1 footnote 10 and sources cited there.
17. Exodus 3:12.
18. The commemoration of their counting is one of the reasons given for the mitzvahof Counting the Omer. Rabbeinu Nissim, end of Pesachim.
19. Rashi and Mechilta, commenting on Exodus 19:2.
20. Shabbos 88a. See Torah Or, maamar Chayav Inesh Livsumei, sec. 4, and themaamar Vikibeil HaYehudim, 5687, sec. 2 which explain that our Sages were employing an analogy. The Jews witnessed Divine revelations so powerful that they had no choice but to receive the Torah; it was as if a tub was held over their head.
21. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Gerushin 2:20.
22. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 11:4.
By Eli Touger    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

ONCE UPON A CHASID: The Schoolteachers Of Beshenkovitz (Beshalach)

Chabad.org
The Schoolteachers Of Beshenkovitz
Shevat 8, 5774 · January 9, 2014

The sea reverted to its former power (14:27)

The word ‘l’aisono’ (‘to its former power’) can also be interpreted to read ‘to its pre-condition’ (‘litna’o’). G-d created the sea on the pre-condition that it will split before the children of Israel.

– Midrash Rabba

From the diary of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch:

Thursday, 14th of Sivan 5662, Serebrinka
[June 19 1902]

…The journey from Lubavitch to Serebrinka follows the Shileve and Zari’etche roads through the villages of Slabaditch, Chaimovka, and Shubkes, and through the city of Rudnia. From Rudnia one takes the highway for some seven versts until the turn-off to Serebrinka. Another half-verst and one arrives at the Serebrinka estate.

When we passed the roadside inn of Chaimovka some four versts into our journey, father gave the order to halt, washed his hands, and still seated in the coach closed his holy eyes and said the teffilas haderech, the ‘prayer of the road’ for a safe journey.

Later, as we rode through a copse of trees, father breathed deeply and, saying that he was exhausted, asked that the coach be slowed. Closing his eyes, he leaned against the side of the coach and rested for a quarter of an hour. My heart shriveled within me at the sight of his weakened health. Then he opened his eyes and instructed that the horses resume their regular pace.

From afar, there came into view two foot travelers who were resting on a rise at the side of the road. As we came closer I recognized two chassidim, Reb Peretz and Reb Menachem Mendel, schoolteachers of Beshenkovitz. When I told father who they were, he instructed the coachman to slow down and to pass close by to where they were sitting.

When we passed the two, we beheld a magnificent sight:

Reb Peretz and Reb Menachem Mendel are sitting in their tzitzis and skullcaps, with their coats, shoes, hats and walking sticks lying at their sides. Reb Menachem Mendel is sitting cross-legged, leaning his elbows on, his eyes tightly closed; he is listening to his friend Reb Peretz, who is also sitting with tightly closed eyes and is reviewing aloud a discourse of chassidic teaching in the special sing-song tone used in reviewing chassidus, gesturing with his hands in the manner employed when explaining a deep idea.

We stopped for several minutes and observed the two, who did not notice a thing. When we resumed our journey father remarked that they were reviewing the discourse Who Measured Water With His Step which was delivered by father on the second day of the festival of Shavuos.1

I told father that Reb Peretz and Reb Menachem Mendel told me that this Shavuos marks their 33rd annual trip to Lubavitch. They first came in 1871.2Every year since, including the years in which father was away from home, they walked to Lubavitch. It is their custom to reach Lubavitch for the Shabbos before Shavuos and to stay through the Shabbos following the festival. Then they return home, again travelling by foot.

We passed through the city of Rudnia and reached the highway, which runs through the market place. Awaiting us were the rabbis, the shochtim, the respectable householders of Rudnia, and its three schoolteachers – Reb Yerachmiel, Reb Yehoshua and Reb Nosson Yitzchok – together with their students, some 50 boys. All have come to greet father and to bless him. Father said to halt the coach and spoke with the assembled for several minutes, giving them his blessings for a restful summer and good earnings.

We drove on. It appears that the scene with Reb Peretz and Reb Menachem Mendel has made a deep impression on father, for when we left Rudnia he said:

“For five thousand, six hundred and sixty one years, nine months, thirteen days, fifteen hours and so many minutes, a certain plot of land has waited for Peretz and Mendel. It has waited for Peretz and Mendel to come and sit on it to review words of Torah, and to thereby fulfill and bring to light the Divine Will which is imbedded within the original supernal thought of creation, which is sealed within the Divine infinite light which comes to emanate the worlds, which is hidden within the Divine infinite light which comes to express the essence of G-d. (Nevertheless, added father, this supernal will and knowledge does not in any way impinge on the freedom of choice which the Almighty has granted every individual.)

“One cannot imagine the immensity of the gratification this causes the Almighty. It is difficult to envision the envy with which the supernal partzufim3covet the deed of these schoolteachers of Beshenkovitz. The rebbes, whose souls are in heaven, rejoice over such ‘grandchildren’.

“The chassidic schoolteachers4are the true luminaries of the Jewish home. They are the ‘Abraham’s of their generations, who spread G-dliness to the Jewish home. Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch would show greater consideration to the schoolteachers than to the rabbis and would say: ‘It is the schoolteachers who make Jews receptive to G-dliness.'”

At this point we turned off the highway on to the soft road. Soon we passed the rows of trees and the house on the hill came into view. This is our lodgings in the country residence of Serebrinka, may the Almighty grace our arrival with success.

Reb Gershon the blacksmith prepared soup and milk and set it upon the high porch which overlooks the grounds. After drinking a hot cup of soup, I went to visit the park, as recounted above,5and now I am sit and write; the air is good, and all is quiet and restful.

FOOTNOTES
1. One week prior to this entry. The discourse is printed in Sefer Hamamorim 5760-62 , pg. 325.
2. In 1871, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok’s grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel, was Rebbe. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok’s father, Rabbi Sholom DovBer, assumed the leadership of Chabad-Lubavitch with Rabbi Shmuel’s passing in 1882.
3. A kabbalistic term for supernal configurations of the Divine attributes of G-d.
4. “Chassidishe melamdim.”
5. See “Father, Father” on page —-
By Yanki Tauber    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Yanki Tauber is content editor of Chabad.org.

WEEKLY ALIYOT: Parshat Beshalach

Chabad.org
Shevat 7, 5774 · January 8, 2014
Beshalach Aliya Summary

General Overview: In this week’s reading, Beshalach, Pharaoh pursues the Israelites into the desert. The Red Sea splits, the Israelites cross the sea while the Egyptian army is drowned. Moses and the Israelites sing a special song thanking G‑d for this miracle. The Israelites complain about a lack of food and drink. G‑d sends Manna and quail for them to eat, and miraculously produces water from a rock. Amalek attacks the Israelites and is soundly defeated.


First Aliyah: After Pharaoh sent the Israelites from his land, G‑d did not allow them to take the most direct route to the Promised Land, fearing that any confrontation would then frighten the Israelites, causing them to return to Egypt via this short route. Instead G‑d had them take the circuitous desert route, leading them with a pillar of cloud during daytime and a pillar of fire after dark. G‑d then commanded the Israelites to backtrack and encamp along the Red Sea. They would thus appear to be hopelessly lost, which would prompt the Egyptians to pursue them. The Israelites followed this instruction, and, indeed, the Egyptians armies set out after the “lost” and cornered Israelites.


Second Aliyah: The Israelites noticed the approaching Egyptian armies, and they panicked. “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert?” they screamed at Moses. “Don’t be afraid,” Moses reassured. “Stand firm and see G‑d’s salvation that He will wreak for you today . . . G‑d will fight for you, and you shall remain silent.”


Third Aliyah: G‑d instructed Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel and let them travel!” G‑d told Moses to stretch out his staff over the sea and divide it, and the Israelites should then proceed through the split sea. “And the Egyptians shall know that I am G‑d, when I will be glorified through Pharaoh, through his chariots, and through his horsemen.” Meanwhile, the pillar of cloud that normally led the Israelites moved to their rear, insulating the Israelites and plunging the Egyptian camp into darkness. Moses stretched out his staff and the sea divided, and the Israelites walked on the seabed, on dry land. The Egyptians quickly pursued them into the sea.


Fourth Aliyah: Moses stretched his hand over the sea and the waters that had been standing like walls now fell upon the Egyptians, drowning them all. Moses then led the Israelites in song, praising G‑d for the wondrous miracle that had transpired. Miriam, Moses’ sister, then led the women in song and dance, with musical accompaniment. The Israelites traveled on in the desert, journeying three days without encountering water. They then arrived in Marah, where there was water—but bitter water. Moses miraculously sweetened the water.


Fifth Aliyah: One month after the Exodus, the Israelites’ provisions ran dry. They complained to Moses, mentioning nostalgically “the fleshpots of Egypt,” that they left behind. G‑d responded that He will rain down bread from heaven in the mornings, and meat will be provided every night.


Sixth Aliyah: The meat, in the form of quails, appeared in the evening and covered the Israelite camp. In the morning, bread – called manna – fell from heaven, encased between layers of morning dew. Moses told the Israelites to gather one omer (a biblical measure) of manna per household member every day. Miraculously, no matter how much manna one picked, he arrived home with precisely one omer per head. Furthermore, Moses commanded the Israelites not to leave any manna over from one day to the next. Some disregarded this instruction, and next morning found their manna worm-infested. On Friday everyone picked two omers. Moses explained that the second portion was to be prepared and set aside for Shabbat—when no manna would fall. Again some disregarded Moses’ directive, and went out pick manna on Shabbat. G‑d was angered by this disobedience. G‑d instructed Moses to take a jar of manna and place it in the (yet to be constructed) Tabernacle, as a testament for all future generations.


Seventh Aliyah: The Israelites journeyed further and as they arrived in Rephidim their drinking water ran out again. The Israelites complained, and G‑d instructed Moses to smite a certain rock with his staff. Water came pouring out of the rock and the people drank. The Amalekites then came and attacked the Israelites. Moses directed his student Joshua to assemble an army and battle Amalek. Joshua did so, and the Israelites were victorious—aided by Moses’ prayer atop a mountain. G‑d told Moses to record in the Book that He will “surely erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.”

PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Beshalach

Chabad.org
Shevat 7, 5774 · January 8, 2014
Beshalach
Exodus 13:17-17:16

Soon after allowing the Children of Israel todepart from Egypt, Pharaoh chases after them to force their return, and the Israelites find themselves trapped between Pharaoh’s armies and the sea. G-d tells Moses to raise his staff over the water; the sea splits to allow the Israelites to pass through, and then closes over the pursuing Egyptians. Moses and the Children of Israel sing a song of praise and gratitude to G-d.

In the desert, the people suffer thirst and hunger and repeatedly complain to Moses and Aaron. G-d miraculously sweetens the bitter waters of Marah, and later has Moses bring forth water from a rock by striking it with his staff; He causes manna to rain down from the heavens before dawn each morning, andquails to appear in the Israelite camp each evening.

The Children of Israel are instructed to gather a double portion of manna on Friday, as none will descend on Shabbat, the divinely decreed day of rest. Some disobey and go to gather manna on the seventh day, but find nothing. Aaron preserves a small quantity of manna in a jar, as a testimony for future generations.

In Rephidim, the people are attacked by the Amalekites, who are defeated by Moses’ prayers and an army raised by Joshua.

FOR FRIDAY NIGHT: A Glimpse Beyond the Veil (Beshalach)

Chabad.org
Shevat 8, 5774 · January 9, 2014
A Glimpse Beyond the Veil

Life can seem very confusing. The struggle to get from one stage to another, even from one day to the next, can seem meaningless. The Torah perspective is that there is indeed deep and beautiful meaning at every step of our lives: but that sense of meaning is often hidden. It is veiled, covered, like a new and exciting invention which is concealed by a large flowing cloth at the beginning of its first public appearance. The crowds are standing there, feeling expectant. The journalists are ready with their poised cameras. Then the veil is drawn aside, and one hears an involuntary gasp from the crowd…

The Splitting of the Sea was something like this, and more. On the one hand it was an astonishing expression of G‑d’s power. More than any of the ten Plagues, this showed that G‑d is master of nature, and that He can eradicate evil completely. After the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Sea, the threat of Egypt disappeared completely. For several centuries the Jews did not have to worry about Egypt as a political force.

Another aspect of the Splitting of the Sea is that it revealed the Infinity of the Divine to every individual. The Sages tell us that the simplest person who was present at the Splitting of the Sea experienced visions more profound than did the greatest Prophets of old.1

The Sea represents the realm of that which is hidden, since the waters conceal everything beneath the waves. Splitting the Sea, and revealing the dry land on which the Jews could walk, expresses the idea that the hidden realms become in some way revealed and accessible. Experiencing this event had a tremendous effect on each person, and prepared them for the greatest experience of all time: the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which took place six weeks later. The Torah comes from the inward hiddenness of G‑d. At Sinai the hiddenness of G‑d was made accessible to every man and woman, bonding them as Jews together and to G‑d, throughout the generations. The Splitting of the Sea was a preparation for this.2

Once that kind of experience has taken place, the person knows that there is meaning, beauty and holiness. The fact that this meaning and beauty is hidden at the moment, by a veil, a cloth, or a heap of rubble, does not matter. One knows what one’s task is: to go forward, step by step.

The struggle which might be involved in this endeavour itself has meaning. This was explained by the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn, in a remarkable tract called Bati LeGani, “I have Come into My Garden.” The purpose of existence is to achieve a dwelling for the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, in our physical realm. This began to be achieved at the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but due to their sin, the Shechinah receded from the world. The task of the Jewish people is to bring the Shechinah back, through our daily lives in fulfilment of the teachings of the Torah.

Sometimes this can seem very difficult. But one of the deep qualities within our personalities is Netzach, the determination and resolve to achieve victory. Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak tells us that when we struggle for something good, with all our effort, we break through to an exalted sense of revelation of the Divine.3 This is the Divine aid which is granted to us, so that we can move forward to the Redemption, when, as at the Giving of the Torah and the Splitting of the Sea, the veil will finally be drawn aside, and for all humanity, infinite beauty, goodness and holiness will be revealed.

FOOTNOTES
1. Rashi to Ex.15:2.
2. See Rabbi Dov Ber, the Mitteler Rebbe’s Sha’ar HaEmunah ch.55.
3. See Bati LeGani ch. 19.
By Tali Loewenthal    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Dr. Tali Loewenthal is Lecturer in Jewish Spirituality at University College London, director of the Chabad Research Unit, and author of Communicating the Infinite: The Emergence of the Habad School.

 

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Parshat Beshalach: The Spiritual Battle Against Amalek

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Parshat Beshalach

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Student Testimonial
Powerful Words: Venting
Parshat Beshalach: Living Faith- Investing With Interest
Tu B’Shevat: Focus on Eretz Yisrael

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Dear Naaleh Friend,
 This week we feature Mrs. Shira Smiles’s class titled

Parshat Beshalach: Closing the Circle from her popular Naaleh series Parsha Topics 5767.  In this shiur Mrs. Shira Smiles discusses the weekly parsha, Parshat Beshalach. In this parsha, the Jews sang Shira to Hashem after he split the sea for them and drowned the Egyptians. Mrs. Smiles delves into the essence of shira, and the importance of incorporating it into our daily lives. In addition, Mrs. Smiles speaks about the attack of the Amalekites on the Jewish people, the character of Amalek, and how to spiritually battle this force.
This week’s Parsha Newsletter is now available as are dozens of classes on this week’s parsha and other Torah topics.  To view the new newsletter please click here for the printable version. Visit our website Naaleh.com or click on the images on the left side bar to view some of our classes now.

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Ashley Klapper and the Naaleh Crew
Dedicated in memory of Rachel Leah bat R’ Chaim Tzvi
Torat Imecha- Women’s Torah

Powerful Words: Venting
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg

What do you do when you need to hear
loshon hara (evil talk) that is l’toelet(for a constructive purpose)? The Chofetz Chaim suggests that if you see the conversation heading towards negativity you should immediately say, “One second, do I need to know this? Hopefully the person speaking will be honest with you. If he says it will affect you or he hopes you can help him deal with it, it is permitted to listen. However, you shouldn’t believe it fully, but suspect that it may be true and check into it further. However sometimes the response to the question, ” Do I need to know this?” is clear that you really don’t. Asking right away if you need to hear something is a good way to avoid loshon hara.It’s also a non-confrontational way to give gentle rebuke. The Chofetz Chaim points out that if you do this often enough, people will stop telling you lashon hara.

If by hearing someone’s story you can turn the negativity into positive, it’s a mitzva to listen. If a person mistakenly heard lashon hara, he should immediately try to defend the person and explain why what was said was wrong. In this way he can undo the sin retroactively. But here too, one must be careful. If by defending the maligned person, more lashon hara will be said, it’s better to keep quiet. If there are other people there who may listen to your defense after the speaker leaves, you should try to undo the loshon hara. Sometimes if you talk to a whole group at once, someone may say something negative. Therefore, if you can speak to each person privately to explain how what was said was wrong, you should do so.

Another instance when it is a mitzva to listen is when you know that it will calm down the speaker and he’ll be less likely to tell others about it. However, you must be careful not to believe what you hear, although you may suspect it to be true. The Chofetz Chaim says that speaking lashon hara in order to assuage the worry in one’s heart, may possibly be permitted, provided all conditions are met. This is based on the verse, “Daaga b’lev ish yasichenu l’acherim.” One may speak about one’s worries to get advice or help. The Sefat Emet offers a deeper interpretation. Hashem may take away your worries so the listener who is sharing your pain and doesn’t deserve to suffer should be spared. Even so, the person venting has to be honest that his intention is not to hurt the other person but to ameliorate his aching heart. The Sefer Chassidim writes that when a person wants to get something off his chest, it’s a mitzva for others to listen. But if he’s telling it over to many people, then you shouldn’t listen, and you should rebuke him.

Although the laws of lashon hara apply fully to married couples, if one is upset and the other can help him cope, it is permitted to listen with the primary goal to explain the situation in a positive way. Part of a healthy marriage is helping one’s spouse deal with the challenges they are facing. If both the husband and wife feel free to unburden themselves, a lot of the small negative interactions that could potentially get bigger can be avoided.

 

Chazal say that one who recites Az Yashir, (the Song of the Sea) with joy is forgiven for his sins. What is the power of these words? After they crossed the sea, the Jewish people complained about a lack of water. Instead of condemning them, Hashem gave them mitzvot. How do we understand this? Furthermore, it seems surprising that after the Jewish people reached such heights of prophecy at the sea, that they protested to Hashem? How was it that their faith didn’t sustain them?

The Maharal notes that three times during the course of events leading up to receiving the Torah, the word v’ya’aminu (they believed) is mentioned. This is to hint to the three levels of emunahthat they reached. The first level is believing in Hashem’s constant presence. Even in times of darkness when He chooses to hide His face, He is still there. The second level is believing that everything is in His control. The third level is deveikut, clinging to Him. Rav Gifter explains that during the splitting of the sea the Jews reached the heights of faith. When we are able to sense Hashem’s presence, we have tremendous joy and clarity as the soul clings to its source.Yirah leads to emunah and joy, which ultimately can lead to shira, pure song to Hashem.

The Midrash says that when the generation of Enosh sinned with idolatry, the Torah uses the word az when describing the events of the era, and the world was doomed to destruction. Hashem sent the raging Flood to destroy the world, filling dry land with water. Noach and Avraham rebuilt the world and the Jews eventually became thedor deiah, the generation of knowledge. They sang as they crossed the sea, and the Torah again uses the word az, “Az yashir Moshe.” Then the Jews reached the heights of the pre-Enosh era and Hashem did the opposite and turned water into dry land.

Az connotes an aspect above time. The generation of Enosh took an eternal idea, belief in Hashem, and brought it down to the physical world of constriction. This effort was doomed. When the Jewish people said Az at the sea, they crossed the threshold from the natural world to the eternal world where they could see Hashem with incredible clarity. When one recites Az yashir with lucid vision, where the sea splits and we’re able to see dry land and understand that it’s Hashem running this world, we can reach a level of eternity. When we return to our spiritual core we are worthy to be forgiven.

How does one reach this level? Rav Matisyahu Salomon explains that faith comes naturally to all people. The question is where do we invest it? Do we trust other people, our own abilities, or Hashem? Just as migrant birds have a homing instinct, every Jew has an innate sense of direction, a built in compass that directs him towards his source, our Father in heaven. Every Jew is a believer because it is part of his inborn genetic makeup. Sins in the realm ofkedusha such as eating non-kosher food and committing immoral acts weakens our emunah. The first commandment of AnochiHashem isn’t so much to have faith in the Almighty but rather to guard and strengthen our emunah by doing mitzvot and avoiding sin. The Netivot Shalom says, when we will be asked, “Nasata v’natata b’emunah, the meaning of the question is, did you involve yourself in the mitzva of emunah? We have to work at making it a part of our daily life. The Leket V’halibuv says the time to do this is when things are going well so that when darkness descends we can draw strength from within.

Hashem lifted the Jews up to high levels at the sea but inwardly they weren’t transformed. The only way for emunah to last is to ingrain it inside of us by doing mitzvot. This is why we were given more commandments at Mara. They were meant to root us in His will and connect us to Him. One of the mitzvot the people received there was Shabbat. Shabbat is a day that is above time. When we kindle the Shabbat candles we bring down the light of clarity and awareness of Hashem. We recognize that there is a Creator who runs the world and that everything thaht exists has purpose and meaning. The secret of Shabbat is the gift of emunah, of sensing Hashem in our everyday world, of seeing beyond the here and now. The Torah relates that each person got exactly the amount of mahn that he needed. Every person is given precisely what was determined for him at the start of the year. Our efforts are not the direct cause of our blessings, our faith and prayer is.

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

 

The Torah tells us, “Ki ha’adam eitz hasadeh.” Man is compared to a tree. The Ramchal writes that the early generations before Avraham defined reality.  It was the era of roots. Avraham gave us the trunk-the visible side of spiritual projection.  Unlike spiritual thinkers of his time, he saw that this world could be uplifted.  Not everyone followed his path and from Avraham’s tree sprouted branches and sub -branches which still remained part of one reality. In essence, we are all one people and we draw our spiritual energy from one source. If we look at it from this perspective, Tu B’shevat is in many ways the Rosh Hashana of our identity.

 

A person’s roots are his past, yet some of these roots are meant to be our inherent faithwhich the Baal Hatanya says is the ultimate definition of every Jew. There is something within us that desires connection and rectification. If we make this point of faithinside of us real, it will show itself in our thought pattern and actions. This is the trunk, the visible part of the tree.

Fruit doesn’t benefit the tree, it benefits others. Yet every part of the tree works in consonance to produce fruit. Similarly, one’s good deeds are one’s fruit. They are what affect others. Additionally, a person’s speech is his fruit. In Hebrew, niv can mean either to express or a bud. To a large extent a person is what he says.

On Tu B’shevat we pray for a beautiful etrog.  Why are we thinking about Sukkot now? The four species taken on Sukkot reflect four different parts of the body.  The lulav is the spine, the hadassimare the eyes, the aravot are the lips, and the etrog is the heart.  The heart bridges the mind to the body.  It is easy to believe intellectually, but true faith is found in the heart. When one prays for an etrog, one is really praying for a straight heart, for passion and for a profound connection with our Father in heaven.

Tu B’shevat is the holiday of Israel which is the etrog, the heart of the world. There is no place in the universe where the spiritual flow from above is as visible or accessible. Therefore there is a custom to partake of the shivat haminim, the seven species of the land, on this day.

Wheat – Wheat relates to the mind which is an integral aspect of our connection to Hashem.  It takes human intellect to produce flour. Indeed we find in Gemara that a child begins the process of becoming a thinker in the human sense, when he can eat wheat.

  

Barley-In early times, barley, was used as animal fodder. It is a tragic mistake to dismiss the animal self. What we are meant to do is uplift physicality by letting our souls tell our bodies who and what to be.

Figs-The Gemara tells us that the tree of knowledge was a fig tree. Figs are usually eaten for pleasure. The pleasure of creativity is almost equaled by the pleasure of destruction. Our challenge is to bring both pleasures into the process of growth.

 

Pomegrante-All Jews are potentially as full of mitzvoth as a pomegranate.  Every Jewish soul is constructed in a way that the mitzvot will resonate within, if reached and addressed in the right way. It is impossible for one Jew to keep all the mitzvoth since some mitzvoth are only applicable to Jews in specific circumstances. The idea is that we are one entity and that the collective of the Jewish nation can fulfill all the mitzvoth.

Grapes-For a vineyard to flourish, it needs the right soil, climate, and rain.  The soil is Israel, l, the vines are the Jewish body that contains a spark of the merit of our forefathers, the rain is Torah which runs from a high place downward and gives us life, and the sun is the light that shines through the mitzvot.

Dates-A righteous person is compared to a date tree. It grows straight and sprouts leaves on top. What defines a righteous man more than anything else is his straightness. We all have different inclinations. Some are inclined to be givers, which can lead to manipulation and crossing lines. Some believe in justice and punishment which can lead to corruption and cruelty.  Being a righteous person means maintaining balance.  This can only come from working on one’s attributes.  Life is about reaching that perfect equilibrium.

Olives-Olives must be pressed to extract their oil. Until one applies pressure, olives have little value. So too, who we are in essence, comes forth not in times of ease, but in times of challenge.

Tu Beshavat is a holiday of joy, a time to contemplate who we truly are.  May all our efforts, our children, our words, and our deeds, bear fruit.

 

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