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Haftarah: Shoftim 5:1-31

JANUARY 18-19, 2008 12 SHEBAT 5768

Tu Bishbat will be celebrated on Tuesday, January 22.


"It happened when Pharaoh sent the people" (Shemot 13:17)

The word "vayhee" is a compound word. The Midrash says that this word means "vay-hayah," and "vay" is the groaning sound of sorrow. So basically the first verse of our perashah begins with a groan. But, the verse is on a happy note, telling us about the Exodus. So who groaned? Pharaoh groaned. What was he groaning about; after all, he was throwing the Jews out? The Midrash explains with a parable. Once there was a man who sold his orchard for 100 coins, not knowing what it contained. Later, people came over to him and said the orchard contained olive groves worth a thousand, grapevines worth a thousand, pomegranates worth a thousand and perfumes worth a thousand. When he realized the mistake he made by selling the entire orchard for only one hundred, he began to scream, "Vay!" So too regarding Pharaoh. The world leaders came to him, "What did you do? They have so many wise men, so many skilled artisans, etc." At that point Pharaoh screamed out, "Vay!"

This Midrash seems puzzling. After all, Pharaoh knew their abilities; he enslaved them long enough. The answer is that he underestimated their abilities. He used them merely as slave labor. However, as the Jewish people left Egypt, he suddenly realized his error, that they are a people of great ability. He could have tapped into their vast skills to build up the Egyptian empire.

This Midrash delivers to us an incredible message. We work ourselves like slaves. We are Pharaoh and slaves all in one body. Let us avoid that day and not cry out "Vay!" We can take advantage of our abilities, the treasures that are within us. We can dedicate a small part of our day to great intellectual pursuits. We can acquire a piece of eternity. We can develop ourselves and our minds. Instead of devoting ourselves to slave labor, we can tap into our great skills. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

There is a charming little story about a boy who came home from Sunday school saying that he learned about the Israelites and the crossing of the Red Sea. When his mother asked if he could repeat the story to her, he replied, "Sure, Mom! Moses was in a helicopter with a walkie-talkie in his hand, watching to see when the Israelites were nearing the Red Sea. When they were at the shore, Moses radioed to the Army Corps of Engineers who laid down pontoon bridges over the Red Sea, and the Israelites crossed over to the other side. When the last Israelite crossed over, Moses radioed to the Engineer Corps and they lifted the bridges, thereby drowning the Egyptians!" The mother turned to her son in shock and asked him, "Is this how they taught it to you?" He replied, "No, Ma, but if I tell you how they taught it to us, you'd never believe me!"

Since we are so used to the real story of the Splitting of the Red Sea, we tend to take it for granted. If we were to hear it like the young boy in the story, we would be truly amazed and exclaim, "What a great miracle occurred to save the Jewish people!" Yet the real miracles are that much more awesome and we are not amazed anymore when we read it every day. We should stop every now and then, close our eyes and picture in our mind's eye what it must have felt like to be part of these great events. Then we would say it with a little more understanding. The Hafess Hayim used to say the Shirat Hayam (the song of the Splitting of the Red Sea) with great concentration and feeling, and those who heard it felt as if the Egyptians were coming right behind him. If we put a little more feeling into our prayers, we would appreciate all the kindnesses Hashem is constantly doing for us! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And on that day, Hashem saved the Israelites from the hand of Egypt." (Shemot 14:30)

The Ohr Hachayim comments that the Torah states that "on that day" they were saved, which was the day the Egyptians who pursued them perished in the sea. Even though they were already liberated on the day that they left Egypt, they were not really considered saved since they did not feel secure in relationship to the Egyptians.

We see from this that even though in actuality a person is free, he is not really considered free unless he personally feels free. A person who worries and feels insecure is a person who is imprisoned even though he is not behind bars and no one will harm him. To be truly free you must feel free and that is up to you. You have a great deal of control over your thoughts if you work on it. If you worry about the future, even though future events might work out exactly as you would have wished, you still suffer in the present. This suffering will be the same as if you actually experienced some misfortune. But all the suffering will be unnecessary. The greater your mastery over your thoughts, the greater freedom you will experience in your life. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Datan and Abiram.

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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