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  KD MAGAZINE!      ב"ה                    
 
 
  PARSHAT BESHALACH  
 

Shabbat Shira & Tu Bishvat
By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs

RABBI YONASSAN BIGGS - PARSHAT HASHAVUA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Shalom and Bracha!

This Shabbat we read the portion of Beshalach. This week’s portion contains many miracles and many tests of faith that the Jewish people endured. All of the miracles teach us to rely on Hashem and follow His directives. After the Jewish people left Egypt, Pharaoh and his army chased them, pinning them against the ocean. The Jewish people were thrown into a state of confusion. Amongst the people there were those who wished to return to Egypt. Hashem told Moshe to tell the people to go forward. Nachshon Ben Aminadav, the prince of the Tribe of Yehudah, jumped into the water. Moshe raised his staff, Hashem split the waters and the Jewish people went through the seabed on dry ground. Thereafter, when the Jewish people left the seabed, the Egyptians pursued. The ocean closed, swallowing them and finally ending the Egyptian threat to the Exodus. Upon witnessing this, Moshe and the Jewish people sang praise to Hashem. The song of praise that they sang is called the “Shirah” (song) of the sea, and is part of the daily prayers. This is the reason why this Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah, because we read the Shirah of the sea. The Egyptian army carried with them vast treasures, which the Jewish people took before their next journey. This teaches us that what seems to be a difficulty (such as the Egyptian army’s pursuit) is often a source of unexpected blessing.

Thereafter, the Jewish came to an oasis called Elim. The Torah tells us that there were twelve wells and seventy date palms. Rashi explains that these paralleled the twelve tribes and the seventy elders. This was a hint from Hashem that our food and water come in the merit of the forefathers and the merit of Torah scholars.

Thereafter, when the Jewish people lacked bread, Hashem sent bread from heaven. The bread was sent in a manner to teach them to have faith. Each day there was only sufficient for that day. It was forbidden to save for the next day. Further, however much one tried to gather, he only had enough for one day. This teaches us that to realize that our sustenance comes only from Hashem. If we deserve to receive a certain amount, all of our efforts to make more will be to no avail. The way to attain more is by meriting more in Hashem’s judgment. Hashem forbade them to gather the bread on Shabbat. Those who went to gather came empty handed. This teaches us that when we must seek sustenance only in accordance with Hashem’s will.

When the Jewish people needed water, two miracles occurred. First, Moshe threw a tree into bitter waters and sweetened them. Later, he hit a rock and water came forth. The tree is symbolic of the Torah, which is called an Eitz Chaim (Tree of Life). The Torah teaches us how to reveal the sweetness in the bitter. The water flowing from the rock teaches us that our true source of sustenance is completely hidden from us, just as the water was concealed in the rock.

Thereafter, a nation called Amalek rose up against the Jewish people. The war was a miraculous one. When Moshe’s hands were uplifted, the Jewish people succeeded. When Moshe lowered his hands, Amalek prevailed. This taught us that all of our success in overcoming evil was dependent upon Moshe. The Targum teaches that the final vanquishing of Amalek will be in the time of Moshiach. May we merit that as we study the redemption, we shall experience it!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

   
 

B”H

Tu B’Shevat-Hakhel

Shalom and Bracha!

Monday, February 9th, is Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. The Gemarrah in Rosh Hashanah states that the fifteenth of Shevat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees. This is because the sap begins to flow again after the winter. Although the Gemarrah is referring to the agricultural laws of tithing and Shemittah, throughout the world Tu B’Shevat is celebrated as a holiday by not saying Tachanun and by eating special fruits. It is customary to make the blessing on the fruits for which Israel is famous, namely grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates. It is also customary to eat a new fruit and make the blessing “Shehechiyanu,” which shows our gratitude that Hashem has kept us alive to reach this day. Using fruits to make blessings is a supplication to Hashem that He should bless the fruits of this year and by making the blessing on fruits connected with Israel we enhance Hashem’s blessing and protection of the land. It is desirable to have a gathering and make the blessings together.

Unity always adds blessing and adds to the festive spirit. Further, it creates an opportunity to include others who might not celebrate the holiday. This is particularly relevant this year, which is a Hakhel year, when every gathering brings a special blessing.

The New Year for trees has important lessons for each of us. A person is compared to a tree. Just as a tree constantly grows, a person must constantly progress. A person is also meant to bear fruits. It is not sufficient that we grow ourselves; we must also affect our surroundings. Just as a tree bears fruit from year to year, we mustn’t be satisfied with our effect on the world until now. We must keep giving and doing and growing.

The entire Jewish people are compared to a tree. Although each branch grows in its own direction, they are all part of one tree. The strength of each limb of the tree aids the entire tree, and the weakness of any limb effects the other limbs. Whatever directions we take, we are one people. When we strengthen each other, we strengthen ourselves. This is alluded to in the name of the month, Shevat. The word Shevat is related to the Hebrew Shevet, which means branch.

The Gemarrah tells us that fruits represent Mitzvot.  When a tree gives fruit, it doesn’t lose its power to bear fruit, but instead grows. When we do a Mitzvah, even if it seems difficult or costly, Hashem repays us and gives us the strength to perform another Mitzvah. When we plant a seed, we don’t see the fruits for a very long time. However, from one seed grows a tree that produces thousands of fruits each year, each capable of producing new trees. We don’t always see the effect of the Mitzvot that we do. However, Hashem nurtures them and they bear fruit for us, our children, and all of those who follow.

May Hashem grant that this Tu B’Shevat usher in a new era of joy, healing, new growth and prosperity, particularly in Israel. The Tanya explains that all of the good things that will occur when Moshiach comes are a direct result of our service of Hashem in Galut (exile). Each Mitzvah is a seed, whose fruit we will see at that time. May the joy of redemption replace the pain of exile immediately!

Chag Sameach,

 Rabbi Biggs

 

  Rabbi Yonassan Biggs is from Chabad of Great Neck, NY. His website is: http://www.chabadgn.com/
 
 

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