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JANUARY 22-23, 2000 - 15 SHEBAT 5760

Pop Quiz: How soon after leaving Yam Suf did B'nei Yisrael complain to Hashem?

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Then Moshe and the Children of Israel chose to sing" (Shemot 15:1)

The Children of Israel at the Red Sea experienced such a thrill that it caused them to spontaneously break out into song. The grammar of the word 'yashir' requires study. 'Yashir' means 'in the future, they will sing.' But they actually sang! Why say "will sing?" Rashi explains that when Moshe saw the miracle, the urge entered his heart to sing. That is what the word means - that they will sing. However, this requires more explanation, because all actions of man begin with an impulse to act before he acts.

The Sefat Emet explains that they wanted to sing but there was a thought that was stopping them. What was it? Many years later there was a Jewish king, Hizkiyahu, who witnessed a tremendous miracle. The army of Sanherib that came to destroy Jerusalem was destroyed by Hashem.

However, he didn't sing to Hashem about this miracle. He felt he couldn't sing because he was so aware of Hashem's control of every natural event, that if he sang it would mean that only this miracle was from Hashem. This would imply that nature was not. So he wasn't aroused to sing any more than he would be from nature. This is why the Jews hesitated. How can we sing? Isn't nature an equally great miracle? But they sang anyway. Why? Because they knew that the reason why man doesn't see Hashem's Hand in nature is because man thinks he is in control. It is his ego. It is called "ga'avah." They realized that the true grandeur, or ego, is attributable only to Hashem, as the next phrase in the song says, "ki ga'oh ga'ah - I will sing to Hashem for he is absolutely lofty." Their own shortcomings made them realize how great Hashem is, and caused them to want to sing even more.

We learn that everything in the world sings the praise of Hashem, even our own shortcomings! Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

One of the beautiful customs that we have is that of families getting together to celebrate. Some have plates and plates of all the different fruits and nuts representing all the berachot while other families have bags of these delicacies for the children. Besides showing appreciation to Hashem for all His bounty, what relevance does this holiday have to us?

The Rabbis tell us that on Tu Bishbat, the juices of the trees begin to flow again, getting ready for another season of producing leaves and fruits. It is a time that Hashem "remembers" the trees, deciding which one will flourish and which one will not, and indeed, the Sages tell us that one should pray for a nice Etrog on Tu Bishbat. The lesson for us is very heartening. If Hashem, Who runs the entire universe, can involve Himself with the smallest detail of which tree will grow to which size, is He not watching and guiding and protecting all His creations, especially His Chosen People? If we can appease Him regarding the welfare of plants and trees by making the right berachot on Tu Bishbat, surely we can pray to Him to bring about our salvation on a general and individual level. We need His protection all the time, especially for our people living in Israel, who are always the target of our enemies, may Hashem protect them! Let us continue our beautiful customs and learn the underlying lesson that it is Hashem who rules the world and to Him do we turn for everything. Tizku Leshanim Rabot!

Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

"But they who love Him [G-d] shall be as the sun going forth in its might" (Haftarah of Beshalah - song of Deborah the prophetess)

Our Rabbis teach us in the Talmud that this pasuk is referring to those who suffer insult but do not insult in response, and who hear their disgrace but do not reply. This trait is noble only if one is attacked personally. If he hears someone insulting his friend, a talmid hacham who is innocent, then it is forbidden and a grave sin to keep quiet. The Meiri explains that the moon was originally as great as the sun, but was reduced in size after complaining that it was not fitting for two equally great luminaries to reign together. Similarly, those who suffer insult but do not respond will be as the sun that goes forth in its might; i.e. they will emerge undiminished by their silence, whereas their antagonists will not only fail in their schemes but will be humbled as well.

However, the Talmud relates that the sun acted quite differently when Moshe was criticized and attacked by Korah and his followers. The sun refused to shine on the world until those who rebelled against G-d and Moshe were punished for their actions. The same sun that was so humble and kept quiet in the past when the moon complained, suddenly came forth boldly and stood up for what was right. A person should act in the same manner by ignoring his own personal insults but defending those who are innocent and wrongfully attacked by others. Such a person has the strength of the sun and the love of G-d Himself. Shabbat Shalom.


"And Pharaoh will say about the Children of Israel: They are entrapped in the land, the wilderness has enclosed them" (Shemot 14:3)

How could Pharaoh possibly think that after all the miracles Hashem did for the Israelites to save them from the Egyptians that now when they were finally liberated, He would forsake them? Anyone with any level of intelligence whatsoever should realize that it would be impossible for the Egyptians to harm the Israelites.

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm wrote that there is a fundamental principle that a person's will and desires blind his intellect. When a person has a strong will, he will act as irrationally as a person who is crazy. His bias will convince him that what he plans to do is sensible even though any simple person could easily tell him that he will be harming himself by his action.

Otherwise intelligent people make such foolish mistakes when they are biased by will and desire that afterwards they themselves wonder how they could have been so foolish. The reason is that one's will blinds him.

Just as a blind person cannot see, so too a person who is blinded by his will cannot think straight. When he is biased, he will come up with all kinds of rationalizations why his improper actions and mistaken decisions are logical. Whenever you have a strong will that might be biasing your thinking, consult other people who are unbiased to see what they think.

Ask yourself what you would think if you did not have such a strong will to do that thing. Just realizing that your desire is likely to bias you will enable you to become more cautious. Be patient. Don't allow your desires to force you to act impulsively. (Growth through Torah)


"Then Moshe sang" (Shemot 15:1)

The Midrash relates that Moshe said, "With the word zt (az) I sinned, because I said that since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he has dealt worse with this nation; therefore, with the word zt I will say Shirah - a song of praise.

Moshe Rabenu indicated that by beginning the Shirah with the same word (zt) that he used earlier to complain to Hashem, he would atone for his previous error in judgment. This needs further explanation. How can Moshe's error be corrected by offering praise to Hashem, simply by using the same word by which he sinned?

An individual who acknowledges Hashem's favors and offers praise and thanksgiving to Him for liberating him from certain doom, can do so using two different approaches. He can thank Hashem for being his source of salvation during his time of need. In this instance, one only recognizes the actual act of salvation and responds properly with gratitude and appreciation. There is yet another more lofty form of thanksgiving.

When a person realizes that his period of affliction and moment of anguish has transformed him into a totally different individual, he can now understand that he has benefited not only from the salvation but also from the bondage and affliction. As Moshe prepared to offer praise to Hashem, he reflected upon the various miracles which had transpired for the Jewish people, and realized that it was the cleansing effect of the enslavement and affliction which raise the Jewish people to such heights as to witness such great miracles. "van rhah zt - I now understand that I was wrong in complaining," that the bondage was actually a part of a master plan in preparing the Jewish people for accepting the Torah.

(Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Three days.

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