FEBRUARY 6-7, 2003 15 SHEBAT 5764
As we sit and eat our variety of fruits and delicacies this Shabbat, which is Tu Bishbat, we should take a moment and dwell on the significance of this day. The custom is to make berachot on different species of fruits and nuts, especially those which Eress Yisrael is noted for, such as grains, wine, etc. By doing so we cause Hashem to bless these items, which in turn produce more bounty.
When we say Boreh Nefashot, the after-blessing for many foods, the blessing encompasses two main categorties: Our necessities ("Boreh nefashot rabot vehesronan"), like bread and water, and all the luxury foods with which man could live without, but make life so enjoyable ("Al kol mah shebarata lehahayot bahem"). On both of these we thank Hashem in the Boreh Nefashot. During Tu Bishbat, when we see the vast abundance of special fruits and nuts that Hashem created for our enjoyment, we should be ever grateful that He gave us so many ways to enjoy this world.
Another lesson for Tu Bishbat is the following. It is freezing outside and all trees have shut down for the season. However, the Rabbis say that on Tu Bishbat the sap begins to rise in these dead-looking trees, getting ready for a new season. So too, we have to see people (and ourselves) in that vein. Even if it looks like they (or we) are not producing, the potential is there to start producing again. We have to let the "sap flow." Happy Tu Bishbat and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Let the people go out and pick each day's portion on its day so that I can test them." (Shemot 16:4)
After the electrifying experience of the splitting of the Red Sea, the Israelites eventually found themselves without food in the desert. They complained that they had nothing to eat, so Hashem responded by delivering the mann (Heavenly bread). The miracle of the mann was a six-day-a-week experience. Rather than provide a bushel full of food to last for weeks, Hashem instructed that the Israelites should gather their food each day. This process was necessary, the verse above explains, to test Israel if they would follow the Torah or not. How is the action of collecting the mann a test of our Torah observance?
The most powerful measure of our commitment to Torah is found in our pursuit of earning a livelihood. Too often, when it comes to the workplace, people make compromises in the standards that Hashem demands from us in the Torah. It is as if they feel, has v'shalom, that Hashem is unaware. Nothing is further from the truth. We are reminded that we must collect our "mann" every day. We must measure up to earn our keep every day. In the desert, the mann was delivered by Hashem to each individual. The amount of effort needed for a person to collect his mann changed every day. If he performed well that day, if he kept the misvot, then the mann would be brought closer to his doorstep the next morning. This reinforced a constant dependence on Hashem. The system of the mann trained us, way back then, even before we received the Torah, to observe the misvot and show good character traits in the workplace. The workplace is a true test of our Torah observance.
In the seemingly mundane earthly process of earning a living, we must feel Hashem's presence. In so doing, we can merit his presents: good livelihood, long life, health and joy from our children. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And Moshe said to the people, 'Do not be afraid.'" (Shemot 14:13)
When Bnei Yisrael saw the Egyptians pursuing the, they panicked and complained to Moshe for taking them out of Egypt. The question arises why the Israelites did not fight against the Egyptians when the Egyptians were chasing them. Since the Israelites greatly outnumbered their pursuers, why didn't they engage in battle to defend themselves? The Ibn Ezra replied: The Egyptians had been the masters of the Israelites. The people who went out from Egypt learned from their youth on to bear the yoke of the Egyptians, and they felt inferior to them. Therefore they were unable to fight against their masters.
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz commented on this that the same principle applies to each person in his battle against the evil inclination. If a person views himself as inferior and feels excessive guilt, he will not even try to fight against his negative impulses. Since he does not believe in himself and his abilities, he feels utterly discouraged. Our task is to view ourselves in an elevated manner. Internalize the knowledge that you have great potential. Be aware of your strengths and know that when you are resolved to be victorious over your impulses, you will succeed. (Growth through Torah)
"Hashem shall do battle for you, and you shall remain silent." (Shemot 14:14)
Many congregations run a campaign every year on this Shabbat to teach the importance of silence during the prayers and during the reading of the Sefer Torah. Based on the words of the pasuk above, they name this week "Shabbat Taharishun - the Shabbat in which you shall remain silent." Is talking in shul really so bad? If so, why?
The Shulhan Aruch (Orach Hayim 124:7) states: "One should not speak mundane talk during the repetition of the Amidah. One who does speak is considered a sinner, his sin is too great to bear, and he should be rebuked." In reference to no other sin does the Shulhan Aruch use such strong language. What is it about this sin that invokes such harsh language?
Imagine that you are sitting in a meeting with top executives negotiating a blockbuster deal. While the CEO is speaking to you, you suddenly turn to your neighbor and ask him how he enjoyed the ball game last night. Or while making a presentation, you interrupt yourself to call your wife and ask her what she's making for dinner. It would obviously not help your cause.
Rabbi Yissachar Frand explains that when a person talks during the tefillah, he is showing that he doesn't appreciate the great opportunity and value of praying to Hashem. Hashem, in His infinite kindness, has opened His doors to us, so to speak, so that we can request from Him all of our needs. When a person makes the most of this opportunity, Hashem will surely answer his prayers. As the pasuk above says, "Hashem shall do battle for you." When will that be? "When you shall remain silent."
Question: How careful are you to refrain from talking during the tefillah? Do your children understand the importance of proper decorum and respect in the shul?
Question: Why must there be a minimum of 21 verses in the haftarah of Shabbat? (Note: There is an exception to this rule, when the entire subject or incident is covered in fewer than 21 verses.)
Answer: As we noted, the haftarah, for a time, replaced the Torah reading. Therefore, it contains at least 21 verses, representing seven aliyot with three verses per aliyah - which is the minimum number of verses in an aliyah - for a total of twenty-one.
(Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
This week's Haftarah: Shoftim 5:1-31
Israel had been suffering greatly under the rule of Canaan. Hashem then sent the prophetess, Deborah to lead Israel to victory against the general Sisera of Canaan. This haftarah is the song of praise to Hashem that they sang after they defeated Sisera.
Similarly, in our perashah, Israel had been suffering under Pharaoh's rule until Hashem sent Moshe to bring them out. After they crossed the Yam Suf, they sang a song of praise. In commemoration of these two songs, this Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah.
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