Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16 )
GOOD MORNING! Did you know that trees not only have anniversaries, they have their own New Year? Wednesday, February 4th is Tu B'Shevat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat) and the New Year for trees!
The 15th of Shevat is the New Year for trees. In the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, it was used for calculating the tithing year for the fruits of trees. The Talmud tells us that trees stop absorbing water from the ground and instead draw nourishment from their sap on this date. Calculating the age of the tree for Orlah (Lev. 19:23) --where fruit is allowed to be eaten from trees that are at least four years old -- is from Rosh Hashana.
How do we celebrate Tu B'Shevat? We eat fruit -- especially the fruits for which the Torah praises the Land of Israel: "A land of wheat and barley and vines (grapes) and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and (date) honey ... and you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deut. 8:8-10). The Jewish people rejoice in the fruits, in the Land and in the Almighty Who has given us life.
Many people celebrate Tu B'Shevat in Israel by planting trees -- but not this year which is the Shmita year (the Sabbatical year where no planting is done). This is an old Jewish consciousness. The Talmud (Ta'anis 23b) tells the story of the great sage Choni HaMa'agel who came across a 70 year old man planting a carob tree. He asked the man if he thought he would live to benefit from the tree. The man replied that just as others have planted for us, we plant for those who will come after us. For a beautiful insight into life, read Rabbi Yehuda Prero, TinyUrl.com/ChoniCarob.
The Kabbalists in Safed created a Tu B'Shevat Seder (similar to the Passover Seder) to delve into the inner meaning of the day. There are explanations and meditations on the inner dimensions of fruits, along with blessings, songs and deep discussion. You can find it at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat
In our home we put out a whole fruit display -- especially those mentioned above for which the land of Israel is praised. It is a time of appreciation for what the Almighty has given us and which we might take for granted. Let your attitude be gratitude!
Man is compared to a tree (Deut. 20:19). In Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) found in the back of most Siddurim, Jewish prayer books, available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), it is written: "A person whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are numerous, but whose roots are few. The wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down. But a person whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place" (Avot 3:22).
Like a tree, our roots are the source of nourishment for our life. A Jew's nourishment is the Torah -- the knowledge and the means for us to make a spiritual connection to the Almighty. The Maharal teaches that just like the tree grows branches, flowers and fruits to fulfill its purpose, a man must work to produce moral, intellectual and spiritual accomplishments to fulfill his purpose. These are the fruits of our existence!
Just as a tree needs soil, water, air and sunlight, so does a person need to be spiritually rooted and connected with a source of nourishment. Water to a tree, Torah wisdom for us -- as Moses proclaims: "May my teaching drop like the rain" (Deut. 32:2). Air for the tree, spirituality for us -- as the Torah states that "God breathed life into the form of Man (Genesis 2:7)." Sunlight for a tree, the warmth of friendship and community for a person. Rabbi Shraga Simmons wrote a beautiful article, "Man is a Tree," expanding on this theme. You will also enjoy "Fruit and the Essence of Mankind" by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin -- available at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat.
Beshalach, Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses with the men and Miriam with the women -- each separately -- sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.
They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites, "If you obey God your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am God who heals you." (This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt -- the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)
Later the Israelites rebel over lack of food; God provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. God tells Moses to strike a stone (later in the Torah God tells Moses to speak to the stone, not here!) which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."
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excerpted from Twerski on Chumash by
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"The entire assembly of the Children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness ... "You have taken us out to this Wilderness to kill this entire congregation by famine." God said to Moses, "Behold! -- I shall rain down for you food from heaven; let the people go out and pick each day's portion on its day." (Ex. 16:2-4).
Rabbi Mendel of Rimanov taught that the manna was a necessary precursor for accepting the Torah. The Torah forbids stealing and coveting others' possessions. It forbids lying, cheating, taking usury and all methods of unlawful enrichment. These laws are in opposition to the innate acquisitive drives within people. How can people abide by laws that defy innate drives?
The manna served as a lesson that a person would get only that which he actually needed. If he had less, God would increase his portion to meet his needs. If he took more than his needs, his greed would result in the excess portion rotting. Once the Israelites developed the trust that God would provide for their needs and that accumulating excess was futile, they could accept laws that opposed their acquisitive drives.
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Your talent is God's gift to you.
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-- Dr. Leo Buscaglia