The Safe Route
This week's parsha begins by telling us that the Jewish people did not travel through the land of the Phillistines when they left Egypt. Instead, they went through the desert. The Chofetz Chaim zt"l explains the advantages and disadvantages of each route. The land of the Phillistines was an inhabited area. Food and drink would be easy to obtain. On the other hand, this route posed a spiritual danger. The Jewish people had just emerged from the 49th level of tumah (impurity) in Egypt, and could not afford to travel through the land of the Phillistines, which was fraught with defilement. The desert route was uninhabited and did not have this spiritual danger. However, there was no food or drink in the desert. Hashem took them through the desert to avoid the spiritual danger. He provided for their sustenance with the miracle of the man (mannah). He chose this route to prevent them from sinking back to their former level.
Children . . .
Many times we have to make choices in our lives. One of the alternatives may hold attractive possibilities for material benefits. The price to be paid, however, may be a situation that will bring down our spiritual level. The other alternative is rich in spirituality, but does not promise to provide much material reward. The Chofetz Chaim zt"l is telling us to make ruchnius (spiritual benefits) our top priority, and Hashem will take care of the gashmius (physical needs). These choices confront us all of the time. B'ezras Hashem, we will learn from the Chofetz Chaim zt"l to make the proper decisions.
Renew Your Loyalty
The Jewish people witnessed awesome miracles at the Red Sea. The water split like a piece of chopped wood, the sea bed dried out, and twelve tunnels formed for the twelve tribes. Each tunnel had a sapphire-like finish to the walls and marble-like floors. There was food and drink aplenty for the weary Jewish travelers. The Egyptians were foolish enough to follow the Jewish people into the sea, and they met their ultimate fate there. They were punished for all of the evil they did to our nation. Our ancestors saw them washed up out of the sea, broken, battered and near death. What was the reaction of the Jewish people to these mind-boggling miracles? The second blessing after Kriyas Shema in the evening prayers describes the Kriyas Yam Suf, then states, "Moshe and the Children of Israel willfully accepted Your rulership with great happiness and sang Shira." The Shira itself states "Hashem will rule for ever and ever." These incredible miracles inspired our nation to renew their loyalty to Hashem and His Torah.
Children . . .
Don't let an opportunity for inspiration pass by. The next time you hear someone say Bircas HaGomel (the blessing made upon being saved from danger) stop and think for a second. Hashem just saved that person from a terrible fate. That is an opportunity to thank Him and renew our loyalty to Him. When He saved us from a terrible fate at the Yam Suf we were inspired to renew our loyalty to Him, Any time He saves us from danger, we can be uplifted to a new closeness with our Creator.
The Torah writes in Shemos 15:2, "Zeh Keli V'anveihu, This is my G-d and I will glorify Him." The Gemora (Shabbos 133b) explains that this verse teaches us to beautify the mitzvos. We should acquire a beautiful sukkah, lulav, shofar, tzitzis, Sefer Torah, etc. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, explains that a person puts effort into the things that are important to him in life. His home, furnishings, and sustenance are all important to him. Therefore, he invests time and monetary resources into beautifying them. What is the most meaningful thing a person can do with his life? Learn Torah and fulfill the mitzvos. Consequently, he must perform them in the most beautiful manner possible, taking care to do them properly. He should not just rush through them fulfilling the minimum requirements.
Children . . .
How do we make our brochos (blessings)? How do we daven (pray)? Let us make sure that we take the proper time and care to daven and say brochos with kavanna (proper concentration). After all, we are speaking to Hashem. When we do an act of chessed (kindness) for someone, let's do it wholeheartedly with a big smile. We can glorify Hashem by learning Torah with great enthusiasm. Hashem wants us to sanctify our speech by refraining from loshon hora and speaking divrei Torah. We should build our family relationships with the utmost love, care, and respect. Shabbos, when observed correctly, is a day of complete kedusha (holiness). Hashem wants us to put our best efforts into His Torah and mitzvos. This brings Him the glory of Zeh Keli V'anveihu.
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