Pop Quiz: How soon after leaving Yam Suf did B'nei Yisrael complain to Hashem?
SING A SONG
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
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.
BLINDED BY DESIRE
"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)
THE MASTER PLAN
"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.