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Weekly Internet Parsha Sheet
Beshalach 5770 .
Mazal Tov to Jodi and Zev Stender on the birth of a son. Mazal Tov to the It is related that a great rabbi was once walking with Rav Avraham proud grandparents Barbara & Mickey Wohl. Yitzchak Kook, the Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, and in the heat of a
complicated Talmudic discussion this rabbi absentmindedly and
inadvertently picked a leaf off of a nearby branch of a tree. Rav Kook Jerusalem Post :: Friday, January 29, 2010
turned to him and said sadly: ―Did it really disturb you that this leaf would TU BSHVAT – THE “GREEN” HOLIDAY :: Rabbi Berel Wein
be able to live months longer?‖
This Shabat is a doubly memorable one. Aside from the holiness of the Reverence for life, all forms of life on our wondrous earth is a keystone of Shabat day itself the date also is Tu Bshvat, the fifteenth day of Shvat, and Jewish attitude and thought. So, on Tu Bshvat we should appreciate the the Shabat is called Shabat Shira – the Shabat of song, for in the Torah deep values that lie behind the delicious fruit that we eat. It is our ―Green‖ reading we hear the song of Moshe and Israel at the Red Sea after holiday – our reminder that we are the custodian and responsible guardian Pharaoh‘s destruction and the Haftorah is the lyrical song of the prophetess of God‘s gifts of nature that have been granted to us.
Deborah in celebration of the defeat of the Canaanite tyrant king and Shabat shalom.
Tu Bshvat is mentioned in the Mishna as being the Rosh Hashana - the new year for fruits and nature. As in all aspects of Judaism and Jewish life Weekly Parsha :: BSHALACH :: Rabbi Berel Wein there are halachic consequences to this day but that is not the subject of this article. The people of Israel had a charmed existence in their life in the desert. Tu Bshvat reminds us of our connection to our land and its soil and its Unlike us, their descendants, they did not face economic downturns or long produce. It also points out the deep connection that the Torah teaches us lines waiting at the supermarket checkout counter. Their food was exists between the natural world, its ecology and preservation and the delivered to them daily (for the righteous at their doorstep) and a magical Jewish people particularly and humankind generally. We were placed by well of Miriam sustained their needs for water without bills and taxes and God on this world to work it and guard it, to use its resources for our surcharges. benefit but at the same time to safeguard it from ruthless exploitation and The great clouds of honor protected them from heat and the sun and their man made destructive forces. clothing was miraculously laundered and cleaned for them. It was the One of the prohibitions of the Torah is not to destroy trees, food, produce idyllic life. But apparently it wasn‘t. The rest of the Torah, including this and the planet generally, needlessly and heedlessly. The fruits of the Land week‘s parsha, is replete with repeated complaints about the food, the of Israel have a holiness attached to them. When we partake of them on Tu water, about everything, about life itself. Bshvat we reaffirm our commitment to the preservation of that holiness Their memories of Egypt become fonder and fonder and their ingratitude and our continuing obligations to create a blessed planet for those who will towards Moshe and God reaches startling proportions. Moshe, the come after us. redeemer of Israel and their unquestionably revered leader, is heard to say As civilization progressed and technology opened new vistas for the to God in this week‘s parsha that he feels his life endangered by the exploitation of our planet‘s natural resources, the ecological health of the murmurings of dissatisfaction of the people against God and him. ―Soon planet seemingly declined. From the disappearing rain forest to the threat they will stone me,‖ he states. of global warming and melting icecaps, our planet has itself become an What happened to their belief in ―God and in Moshe, His servant?‖ How endangered species. So-called ―Green‖ political parties have therefore did it occur that they could complain about the marvelous situation of arisen all over the Western world in an attempt to restore the correct security and freedom in which they now found themselves? How can they equilibrium to nature‘s benefit. proclaim that they want to return to Egypt, the country of their oppression But as is also usual in most cases, political action, legislation and and persecution? These questions are very disturbing ones and all of the community activism alone are not enough to accomplish the goal set by great Jewish commentators to the Torah have attempted to deal with them. that particular political party. It requires the winning of human hearts and Though each of the commentators offers a differently nuanced answer to minds to the cause that alone can reverse what appear to be impending these questions there is a common thread that runs through all of their difficulties and potential natural disasters. It is a matter of education and words and ideas. And that is that human beings are basically dissatisfied commitment, tenacity and sophistication that is required to win this long creatures. The rabbis taught us that he who has one hundred (million, range struggle. billion, trillion?) always wishes for two hundred! And Judaism and Jewish values have an important role to play in this The rabbis, therefore, defined wealth in terms of personal satisfaction and situation. Jews are the experts in long term education, commitment, gratitude and they ruefully remarked that there are rather few wealthy tenacity and sophistication. It is the secret of our survival over these many people present in our world. ―Most of the world is poor,‖ they declaimed long millennia. Viewing Tu Bshvat as part of this educational project gives and they were not speaking of material artificially and statically arrived at the enterprise a holy tone and an historical backdrop. poverty lines. In fact, the largesse and ease poured unto our ancestors as It will help guarantee that later generations will also be able to eat new they left Egypt was meant to teach them that no amount of material well delicious fruits grown from the carefully nurtured soil of the Land of Israel. being would ever be enough for them. ―Green‖ is not and should not be a secular enterprise solely. Torah ideas There had to be another dimension that had to enter their lives and beings. and Jewish values have much to say about it as well. And that was an intangible one of spirit and holy purpose, of Godly In the long exile of the Jewish people from their homeland, Tu Bshvat was behavior and gratitude for life itself. It was represented by the Torah that always a warm reminder of what once was and what would yet be once they would receive and accept at Mount Sinai fifty days after their more. Jews ate dried and hard carob fruit and thought about Jerusalem and liberation from Egyptian slavery. a better world for all. For fifty days their ingratitude would be forgivable for they had no other Unable to own land they nevertheless appreciated the sanctity and blessing insight into life except the always unsatisfactory material one. After of the earth and its bounty. They were careful not to destroy plant life, not receiving the Torah at Sinai they would now be held to a higher standard to wantonly uproot trees, not to waste the value of nature‘s gifts to humans. of appreciation and thankfulness. And these attitudes were codified into Jewish law and enshrined in Jewish That has been the secret of Jewish resilience and survival throughout many practice. a very bleak physical time. It remains valid and true for our current time as
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Shabat shalom. Moses wasn‘t just complaining about the problems he was having now
with Pharaoh. He was saying that ―from the time‖ — from its very
beginning — the whole plan to take the Jews out of Egypt was fatally flawed. He was saying to G-d that he didn‘t see any order in what was Ohr Somayach :: Torah Weekly :: Parshat Beshalach going on. For the week ending 30 January 2010 / 14 Shevat 5770 When you look at life‘s rich tapestry from the wrong side it looks like a by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com complete mess. Moses didn‘t see the Divine needlework of the Creator. He Overview was looking at events from the wrong perspective. However the same word Pharaoh finally sends Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. With pillars of cloud and that Moses used to complain to G-d, he repeated in G-d‘s praise when he fire, G-d leads them toward Eretz Yisrael on a circuitous route, avoiding saw the perfection of the Divine Plan. The Midrash says that just as Moses the Pelishtim (Philistines). Pharaoh regrets the loss of so many slaves and erred with the expression ―me‘az‖ — ―from the time‖ — so too with that chases the Jews with his army. The Jews are very afraid as the Egyptians same word, ―az‖, Moses rectified his mistake. draw close, but G-d protects them. Moshe raises his staff and G-d splits the After the Jewish People emerged from the splitting of the sea, they saw the sea, enabling the Jews to cross safely. Pharaoh, his heart hardened by G-d, mighty Egyptian army strewn across the beach like so many broken toy commands his army to pursue, whereupon the waters crash down upon the soldiers. It was there that every Jew, from the greatest to the most humble, Egyptian army. Moshe and Miriam lead the men and women, respectively, reached a level of insight into the workings of the world that has never in a song of thanks. After three days' travel only to find bitter waters at been repeated. Marah, the people complain. Moshe miraculously produces potable water. This perception moved Moses and the children of Israel to song. Song in In Marah they receive certain mitzvot. The people complain that they ate Jewish thought represents the ability to harmonize all the disparate events better food in Egypt. G-d sends quail for meat and provides manna, a in our world and plug them back into the One. G-d is One. miraculous bread that falls from the sky every day except Shabbat. On ―Then — ―az‖ — Moses and the children sang a song.‖ Friday a double portion descends to supply the Shabbat needs. No one is That song is part of the prayers we say every single day of the year. Maybe able to obtain more than his daily portion, but manna collected on Friday one of the reasons we say it every day is to remind ourselves that when life suffices for two days so the Jews can rest on Shabbat. Some manna is set seems like a bad attempt at modern art, we must know that there is a aside as a memorial for future generations. When the Jews again complain Supernal Artist weaving life's rich tapestry. about a lack of water, Moshe miraculously produces water from a rock. And not a single thread is without design and beauty. Then Amalek attacks. Joshua leads the Jews in battle while Moshe prays ? 1995-2010 Ohr Somayach International for their welfare. Insights Life's Rich Tapestry Peninim on the Torah by Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum “Then Moses and the Children of Israel chose to sing this song to G-Parshas Beshalach d.” (15:1) Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him. (13:19) As a young boy, I remember my mother weaving a tapestry of Simply translated, Moshe Rabbeinu fulfilled Yosef's request that he be Gainsborough‘s ―The Boy In Blue‖. buried in Eretz Yisrael. While the rest of Klal Yisrael was preoccupied It took her forever. One day, shortly before she finished it, I remember with fulfilling Hashem's command to request and obtain valuable gold and picking it up and thinking to myself. ―Mommy, forgive me. You‘re maybe silver utensils from the Egyptians, Moshe was busy locating and returning the best mother in the world, but when it comes to needlework, well, this is Yosef's coffin. The Megaleh Amukos suggests a homiletic approach a mess! There‘s a piece of red sticking out here. Over here, there‘s a towards understanding this pasuk. Moshe took along with him the turquoise thread that seems to go nowhere.‖ The whole thing looked more atzmiyus, which is a play on the word atzmos, bones - or essence or like Bauhaus than Gainsborough. essential character - of Yosef. What was Yosef's greatest strength? Suddenly, my fingertips detected smooth regular stitching on the other side Wherein lay that quality that Moshe, as he was about to assume the reins of of the tapestry. I turned the tapestry over and saw the most beautiful sight: leadership over the nascent Jewish people, wanted to emulate? It was an exquisite and precise copy of Gainsborough‘s ―Boy in Blue‖. The Yosef's ability to forgive and forget, to overlook and let bygones be stitches were so regular and well formed. The colors all blended so bygones. His brothers had sold him into slavery, an ordeal which had beautifully together. A divine tapestry! All the disjointed threads that I saw transformed his life, as it separated him from his father for years. Yet, he on the other side of the tapestry harmonized into a complete and beautiful harbored no animus, only demonstrating love and forgiveness towards his whole. brothers. He went out of his way to sustain them, to support them when Sometimes we can view life's rich tapestry from the wrong side they came to Egypt. Moshe "took" all of this and incorporated it into his Sometimes it‘s very difficult to make sense of world events. It‘s difficult to psyche, as he led the people through their forty-year journey in the believe that the world is being run by Someone. You wonder how things wilderness. With calm and patience he tolerated their complaints and could be part of a Divine coherent plan. You hear about earthquakes and criticism, their ingratitude and pettiness. He never "lost it" with them, terrible suffering, and you wonder how this can be the handiwork of a always responding with a smile. Moshe took "Yosef" with him out of Merciful G-d. Egypt. Don‘t think you‘re alone if you feel like that. Leadership requires patience borne of love and tolerance, which is the You‘re in good company. Because one of the greatest men who ever lived manifestation of sensitivity and caring. This contrasts patience and felt exactly like you. tolerance which are manipulated in accordance with the winds of politics. Moses, our greatest teacher, himself had his questions about how G-d was While many Torah leaders demonstrate these qualities, Horav Shlomo ―running the show‖. In last week‘s public Torah reading, Moses went to Halberstam, zl, the Bobover Rebbe, was the embodiment of love for all Pharaoh to ask him to let the Jewish People go. Pharaoh, as you may Jews. He effusively manifested this fatherly love in a manner that lay the remember, was not the easiest of negotiating partners. In reply to Moses‘ groundwork for his outstanding success in rebuilding Bobover chassidus in request, Pharaoh told the taskmasters to stop giving the Jews straw. this country and throughout the world, following the horrors and However the Jews were still required to produce the same quantity of destruction of World War II. When one entered the Rebbe's office to pour bricks as before. Not surprisingly, the Jews complained bitterly to Moses. out his heart or to share with him news of an upcoming simchah, the So Moses went back to G-d and said, ―My L-rd, why have You done evil reaction often paralleled that of the petitioner. When he listened to a tale of to this people, why have You sent me? From the time I came to Pharaoh to woe, he would cry as if he was - and he was! - totally immersed in the pain speak in Your Name, he did evil to this People, but You did not rescue of the supplicant. Moments later he could be embracing a young man who Your people.‖
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was finally blessed with a child, the Rebbe's joy was equal to that of the saw how meaningless and powerless mortals were in combating the fire, he new father. He was a Rebbe, but he acted as a loving father. turned to the One Whom he knew was able to put an end to the devastation In his "Warmed by their Fire," Rabbi Yisrael Besser very poignantly - Hashem. This is the meaning of umnus avosam. Prayer is part of a Jew's describes the Bobover's fatherly love, his tolerance and patience with all. DNA. Just as the secular Jew cannot dismiss Hashem from his life, Once, a chasid entered and told the Rebbe that he had just been diagnosed because being a Jew means that one is connected to the Almighty, likewise with a life-threatening disease. The Rebbe arose from his chair, embraced a Jew understands that prayer is an integral part of his life. the man and held him tight. Then, suddenly, he began to weep profusely. Rav Yeruchem puts it simply, "A tailor takes his sewing basket; a The sobbing of the Rebbe and the petitioner could be heard from outside carpenter takes his tool chest; a shoemaker takes his special tools; a Jew the room. After a few moments, the Rebbe called his aide to bring another takes his "prayer," which is the tool of his trade. It all is transmitted to us handkerchief. His was already soaked. through our ancestors. Indeed, the Bnei Yissaschar writes that the word The tears were not yet dry when a young chasid entered with his three-"daven," to pray, is derived from de'Avunon, that of our fathers, which is a year-old son who was there for his upsherin, first haircut. The rebbe's reference to the Avos, Patriarchs. This is how they interfaced with Hashem, countenance changed drastically, as he now embraced the little boy and and so do we. With this in mind, why does Rashi emphasize that Klal prepared to imbue this joyful occasion with the majesty and warmth of Yisrael adopted the craft of their forefathers? What novel idea is he accompanying a child through another milestone of tradition. teaching us? The Jewish People did not initiate prayer. It was transmitted The Rebbe acted this way towards all Jews. Once, during the wedding of to them through the generations.
one of his grandchildren, he entered his room to rest for a few minutes, so The venerable Mashgiach of Mir explains this pragmatically. When one exhausted was he from the joyous dancing. Someone who was not a considers the constraint and misery which have become Klal Yisrael's lot Bobover chasid entered the room during a time that was really throughout the years, we wonder what has kept us going. We are drowning inappropriate. Just next door, thousands of chassidim were waiting for the in a sea of anti-Semitism from all sides; some are malignantly overt, while Rebbe to return and honor them with his presence. The young man wanted others are subtle, concealed under a veil of diplomacy and benign to take advantage of this auspicious occasion, during the Rebbe's elevated friendship. Yet, we continue to survive and even thrive. Why have we not state of joy, to ask for a brachah, blessing. He was very ill and in great "thrown in the towel"? What has generated within us the hope to triumph need of blessing. After the man described the seriousness of his condition, over the constant adversity which plagues us? It is the realization that we the Rebbe replied, "Come, let us say Tehillim together!" Everyone was cannot rely on anyone or anything. The only stability in our lives is waiting outside; the crowd was becoming edgy, but the Rebbe was Hashem, and it is to Him that we turn.
When we allow ourselves to think cogently and clearly, we confront the transported to a different world - a world of Tehillim and tears for another
Jew. After they concluded the Tehillim, the Rebbe said, "Come let us give reality that this sense of assurance is not something that comes to mind tzedakah, charity, together." They did, and the young man walked out only during periods of adversity. Veritably, is it any different when things