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Haftarah: Shoftim 5:1-31

FEBRUARY 2-3. 2006 15 SHEBAT 5767

Tu Bishbat will be celebrated on Shabbat, February 3.

Pop Quiz: What did Bnei Yisrael complain about in Marah?


"The children of Israel came within the sea on dry land." (Beresheet 14:22)

The Talmud (Sotah 37) teaches us that the tribes were arguing for the privilege of being the first to jump into the sea. The Red Sea was in a tremendous upheaval and Hashem said we should march into the sea, and it will split. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin argued as to who will be the privileged one to go first. Finally the tribe of Benjamin just jumped in. When the tribe of Judah saw this, they became so angry that they threw rocks at the Benjaminites. The Talmud informs us that the tribe of Benjamin was rewarded in the future. The Holy Temple will be built on their land. But the bigger news is that Judah was also rewarded. Kings will come from him. Rewarded for throwing stones?

The story is told of a group of children who were playing at a certain family's home. One of the children suddenly incurred a serious accident and had to be taken to the hospital. As the hostess was breaking the news to the mother of the child, she had to tell her gradually. She first said that one of the children had an accident. "That's nothing," she responded. "Children are always having accidents." Then she told her that the child was taken to the hospital. "Nu," the mother replied. "We must have faith in Hashem. He will help the child." "But," the hostess finally said, "it was your Yossele," and the mother fainted.

As much as we can and should appreciate those who work for peace and an end to dissension in the Jewish community, it may sometimes be the case that their aloof attitude implies that the issue at hand doesn't really affect them - it isn't really their issue, it isn't really their Yossele. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein once commented that, in the old days, people would fight for an aliyah in the shul. They would become angry if they did not get their aliyah. Today we are more polite and gentlemanly, and we are willing to give up such an honor for the sake of peace. R' Moshe's comment was, "I don't know which attitude is worse."

This is why the tribe of Judah was rewarded for throwing stones, for they demonstrated that listening to the word of Hashem to go into the sea was as precious to them as it was to Benjamin. In Pirke Abot (5:20) we learn that an argument that is for the sake of Heaven will last. What does this mean? It means that the arguers will survive. it means that in the merit of taking such issues seriously and making them their own, they will succeed in their own lives. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

The Midrash in this week's perashah compares the Jewish people to a young woman who was in mortal danger, crying out for help. A king happened to be nearby, heard her cries and saved her from her tormentors. She was so grateful to him that eventually they got married, and she became the queen. One day the king realized that his wife was no longer close to him and speaking to him. He devised a plot where she could again think that that she is in danger, and she began to call out for help, whereupon he saved her again and their relationship was restored.

So, too, says the Midrash, the Jewish people cried out to Hashem and He saved them from Egypt. But when they stopped calling out to Him after they left Egypt, He devised a way that they should be up against the Sea of Reeds with the Egyptians behind them and nowhere else to turn but to Hashem. That's when they cried out to Him and He split the sea, and they sang the song of "Az Yashir"

The Rabbis point out from this Midrash a very important lesson. We think that if everything is OK, we don't need to call out to Hashem, but if there's a problem, then we cry out to Him. This is called a fire engine mentality; we don't call the fire engines unless, G-d forbid, there's a fire. But in reality, it's the other way around. Hashem wants us to call out to Him at all times, and when we don't, that's when he brings the problems which force us to turn to Him. Hashem is not a fire engine! He is our Father, our King, Who wants us to be in touch always. When things are going good, that's all the more reason to pray to Him that everything should continue, and our relationship must become stronger. That way, we won't need any "plots" to wake us up to turn to Him! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And it was told to the king of Egypt that the people fled; Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart" (Shemot 14:5)

The people did not run away. Were they not asked to leave?

In Parashat Beshalah the term "am - people" refers to the "ereb rab," a mixed multitude of Egyptians who left Egypt together with the Jewish people, and the expression B'nei Yisrael refers to the members of the Jewish community.

When Pharaoh asked the Jewish people to leave, he sent along with them a contingency of his own Egyptians. He anticipated that this "fifth column" would assure the return of the Israelites to Egypt. Suddenly, word reached Pharaoh that "barah ha'am" - his own people whom he sent along with the Jewish people had fled.

Pharaoh now had a change of heart for permitting the Children of Israel to leave, because not only did he lose his free slaves, but he also lost his own subjects who enriched his coffers with taxes.

The Children of Israel were destined to be slaves for 400 years in Egypt, but were only there 210 years. The word "barah - fled" has the numerical value of 210. When the Egyptians began to complain to Pharaoh that "barah ha'am," the Jews were there only 210 years, then his heart hardened and he regretted sending out the Jewish people prematurely. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And the hands of Moshe were heavy and they took a rock and placed it under his and he sat on it" (Shemot 17:12)

Rashi comments that Moshe did not sit on a comfortable pillow but a rock. There was a battle going on with Amalek, and Moshe wanted to feel the suffering of the people. This, said Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz, is a lesson in feeling for another person's suffering. Not only should we mentally feel their pain, but it is proper to do some action in order to feel some discomfort yourself when someone else experiences pain.

This way you actually feel his pain.

Empathy is such an important attribute that we should make every effort to feel for another person. An egoistical person only cares about his own welfare and is totally uninterested in anyone else's difficulties and problems. He only wants to make certain that he is comfortable. If he is in any distress, he no longer can think about the suffering of others. Here we see that in order to feel someone else's suffering, we should go out of our way to make ourselves a little less comfortable. Our own distress is more real than someone else's. By being aware of how a little discomfort bothers us, we can have greater empathy for others. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: That they didn't have any water to drink.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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