• Dvar for Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

    After the Jews made it across the sea, this week’s Parsha (Beshalach) introduces the Jews singing in joy. Moshe sang with the men (15:1), and then Miriam sang with the women (15:21). Both of them sang, while the people responded.  However, when Miriam sang, the Passuk (verse) says that she responded to “them” in masculine form. If she sang with the women, why is the word in masculine form? Also, of all the verses that Miriam chose to repeat of Moshe’s song, she chose the verse “sing to G-d because He’s great; horse and wagon drowned in the sea.” Why did she choose this seemingly random verse?

    To understand this, we must ask ourselves why the horses drowned, if only their riders had sinned? Rav Chashin tells of a much deeper exchange between Moshe and Miriam: After Moshe sang with the men, Miriam responded to Moshe in the form of a metaphor by telling him that the horses were punished just like the soldiers on their backs because they facilitated those soldiers. By the same token, Miriam is telling Moshe that the women deserve just as much credit as the men, regardless of their difference in familial roles. Miriam’s message couldn’t be more true today: Helping someone follow the Torah’s laws is as important as personally following the Torah’s laws, and is in fact following those laws. If we all try our best to follow the Torah’s laws, and help others do the same, we’ll all sing as one, in harmony.

  • Dvar for Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

    After the Jews made it across the sea, this week’s Parsha (Beshalach) introduces the Jews singing in joy. Moshe sang with the men (15:1), and then Miriam sang with the women (15:21). Both of them sang, while the people responded.  However, when Miriam sang, the Passuk (verse) says that she responded to “them” in masculine form. If she sang with the women, why is the word in masculine form? Also, of all the verses that Miriam chose to repeat of Moshe’s song, she chose the verse “sing to G-d because He’s great; horse and wagon drowned in the sea.” Why did she choose this seemingly random verse?

    To understand this, we must ask ourselves why the horses drowned, if only their riders had sinned? Rav Chashin tells of a much deeper exchange between Moshe and Miriam: After Moshe sang with the men, Miriam responded to Moshe in the form of a metaphor by telling him that the horses were punished just like the soldiers on their backs because they facilitated those soldiers. By the same token, Miriam is telling Moshe that the women deserve just as much credit as the men, regardless of their difference in familial roles. Miriam’s message couldn’t be more true today: Helping someone follow the Torah’s laws is as important as personally following the Torah’s laws, and is in fact following those laws. If we all try our best to follow the Torah’s laws, and help others do the same, we’ll all sing together, in harmony.

  • Dvar for Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

    After the sea was split in our Parsha, Beshalach, the Torah says (14:31), “And they believed in G-d and His servant Moshe.” As Rav Aron Tendler wonders, what exactly did they believe in?  It can not mean that they believed in the existence of G-d and Moshe, because they saw G-d, and new that Moshe existed. If you know something, it’s fact, not belief, so what is the Passuk (verse) referring to  by using the word “believed”?

    Rav Tendler explains that following the splitting of the sea, the Jews understood far more than the obvious reality of G-d’s power and majesty.  They understood that they had been chosen to the exclusion of the rest of the Egyptians, and the rest of the world. They also understood that being chosen meant that they had a mission to accomplish. Therefore, their stated belief was not for that which they had already experienced or witnessed, but with accepting their station and  responsibilities as the world’s designated teachers. As Jews we need to ensure that all our actions reflect the dignity, honor and responsibility we were given.

  • Dvar for Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

    Parshat Beshalach includes the famous splitting of the Sea (14:21), where Moshe led them into the water, and the sea split for them. Psalms 114 offers that “the sea saw, and ran”, and commentators explain that what the sea saw was Yosef’s remains, and withdrew in their merit. As Rabbi Shmulevitz asks, what was so special about Yosef’s remains that the sea split because of them, rather than because of Moshe or the Jews?

    Rabbi Shmulevitz answers by introducing a fundamental concept in Judaism: avoiding temptations. Yosef was in a position where he might have been tempted to sin (with Potifar, and generally living in Egypt as the only Jew), and rather than be placed in a position to overcome his urges, he avoided those urges altogether, even placing himself in danger by leaving an article of clothing behind. This great act is not only an example for us today, but it’s also the reason why the Jews were faced with crossing the sea in the first place. Had human logic prevailed, the Jews would have headed straight to Israel, which would have taken them 4 days. However, that might have tempted the Jews to consider returning to Egypt, so G-d had them go the long way, which included crossing the sea. The splitting of the sea and Yosef’s life join efforts in conveying a critical lesson: Avoid conflict as much as you can. Whether it’s our internal temptations, friends, parents, spouses or those we share borders with, the Parsha offers us 3,000 year old advice that we still holds true today: Avoid conflict and temptation by minimizing confrontations.

  • Daily Aliya for Beshalach, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Israelites journeyed further and as they arrived in Refidim their drinking water ran out again. The Israelites complained, and G‑d instructed Moshe 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. Moshe directed his student Joshua to assemble an army and battle Amalek. Joshua did so, and the Israelites were victorious—aided by Moshe’s prayer atop a mountain. G‑d told Moshe to record in the Book that He will “surely erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.”

    What made Amalek so evil was that they exploited the (perceived) weakness of the Israelites to try and destroy them. While recording in the book to erase their memory sounds like an oxymoron, the point was to remember to never prey on the weak, for we were once weak too.

  • Daily Aliya for Beshalach, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: 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. Moshe 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, Moshe 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. Moshe explained that the second portion was to be prepared and set aside for Shabbat—when no manna would fall. Again some disregarded Moshe’s directive, and went out pick manna on Shabbat. G‑d was angered by this disobedience. G‑d instructed Moshe to take a jar of manna and place it in the (yet to be constructed) Tabernacle, as a testament for all future generations.

    I believe this marks the first time that G-d is angered by the Israelites’ complaints, and it could be directly connected to the people’s being born into slavery. If they were used to being slavery, they should have no problem following orders, and no one should have collected the Manna on Shabbos. It was up to them to work on transforming their slavery habits of hoarding food for the future. Just because it’s in our nature to want to do something, doesn’t mean we should act on it. The challenge is to use our thought process to filter out those actions that aren’t appropriate. This is what the Israelites were asked to work on at this point in their transformation into a nation.

  • Daily Aliya for Beshalach, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: One month after the Exodus, the Israelites’ provisions ran dry. They complained to Moshe, 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.

    Although on the surface the Israelites may seem ungrateful when they complain, it’s important to understand that they are going through a critical change in their lives. They were all born to slavery, and were used to complaining to their masters, and possibly eventually getting a small percentage of what they ask for. Now they find themselves needing food, and complain because it’s all they know. They receive food that tastes like whatever they want it to taste like. This too will be a foreign concept to them – having their opinion matter. Understanding, this is why G-d and Moshe don’t get upset at the complaints, and simply address the issue.

  • Dvar for Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

    Parshat Beshalach includes the famous splitting of the Sea (14:21), where Moshe led them into the water, and the sea split for them. Psalms 114 offers that “the sea saw, and ran”, and commentators explain that what the sea saw was Yosef’s remains, and withdrew in their merit. As Rabbi Shmulevitz asks, what was so special about Yosef’s remains that the sea split because of them, rather than because of Moshe or the Jews?

    Rabbi Shmulevitz answers by introducing a fundamental concept in Judaism: avoiding temptations. Yosef was in a position where he might have been tempted to sin (with Potifar, and generally living in Egypt as the only Jew), and rather than be placed in a position to overcome his urges, he avoided those urges altogether, even placing himself in danger by leaving an article of clothing behind. This great act is not only an example for us today, but it’s also the reason why the Jews were faced with crossing the sea in the first place. Had human logic prevailed, the Jews would have headed straight to Israel, which would have taken them 4 days. However, that might have tempted the Jews to consider returning to Egypt, so G-d had them go the long way, which included crossing the sea. The splitting of the sea and Yosef’s life join efforts in conveying a critical lesson: Avoid conflict as much as you can. Whether it’s our internal temptations, friends, parents, spouses or those we share borders with, the Parsha offers us 3,000 year old advice that we still holds true today: Avoid conflict and temptation by minimizing confrontations.

  • Daily Aliya for Beshalach, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe stretched his hand over the sea and the waters that had been standing like walls now fell upon the Egyptians, drowning them all. Moshe then led the Israelites in song, praising G‑d for the wondrous miracle that had transpired. Miriam, Moshe’s 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. Moshe miraculously sweetened the water.

    Aside from the literal meaning of the text, this episode is considered an allusion to the primacy of Torah in the life of a Jew. Both Torah and water sustain life – spiritual and physical. In the same vein, “three days without water” resulted in our reading the Torah on Monday and Thursday, so that in our wandering in the spiritual desert of life, we will not go 3 days without spiritual water. This is but one “use” of the well-known analogy between Torah and water.

  • Daily Aliya for Beshalach, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d instructed Moshe, “Speak to the children of Israel and let them travel!” G‑d told Moshe 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. Moshe raises his hand above the Sea and G-d causes a powerful eastern wind to blow all night, followed by a parting of the waters. The People of Israel enter the Sea on dry land, between walls of water. The Egyptians quickly pursued them into the sea.

    What was the purpose of the strong wind blowing all night? Could not G-d have split the Sea with the snap of a finger? The answer is: Of course. But the night’s preparation for the miracles of the day serve several purposes. A night to ponder what was going on, further enhanced the appreciation of the Children of Israel for what had happened, was happening, and was to happen.

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