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Beshalach(Exodus 13:17-17:16)

Beshalach 5768

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GOOD MORNING! When is the New Year? Would you be surprised to know that there are 4 New Years in the Jewish calendar - and Tuesday, January 22 is Tu B'Shevat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat) and the New Year for trees!

The first mishna - teaching - in the Talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashanah informs us of the 4 New Years:

  1. The first of the Hebrew month Nissan is the New Year with regards to counting the years in the reign of the Kings of Israel.

  2. The first of Elul is the New Year with regards to tithing of the animals. (One out of ten animals born from the Hebrew month of Elul until the beginning of Elul the following year was given to the Temple.)

  3. The first of Tishrei is the New Year for the judgment of mankind - for life or death, rich or poor, sickness or health - as well as for counting the Sabbatical Year (Shmita) and the Jubilee year (Yovel) for the land of Israel; the counting of the first three years of a fruit tree when the fruit is not allowed to be eaten (Orlah), and calculating the tithes for grain and vegetables.

  4. The 15th of Shevat is the New Year for trees with reference to calculating tithes due to be given from fruit of trees in the time of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Tu B'Shvat is a festive day. The Torah praises the Land of Israel with reference to the fruits of the trees and the produce of the soil:

"A land of wheat and barley and vines (grapes) and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and (date) honey ... and you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deut. 8:8-10).

The Jewish people rejoice in the fruits, in the Land and in the Almighty Who has given us life.

It is celebrated by eating the special types of fruits for which Israel is renowned: olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates -and also buxer (carob). It's also celebrated -- except this year which is a shmitah year, a Shabbos year for the land -- by planting trees in Israel. Just as others have planted for us, we plant for the future and those who will come after us.

In our home we put out a whole fruit display - especially those mentioned above for which the land of Israel is praised. It is a time of appreciation for what the Almighty has given us and which we might take for granted. Let your attitude be gratitude! The Kabbalists in Safad created a Tu B'Shvat Seder (similar to the Passover Seder) with explanations and meditations where the inner dimensions of fruits are expounded, along with blessings, songs and deep discussion. You can find it at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat/tubshvatdefault/default.asp.

Man is compared to a tree. In Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers found in the back of most Siddurim, Jewish prayer books, available at your local Jewish bookstore, at http://www.judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), it is written:

"A person whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are numerous, but whose roots are few. The wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down. But a person whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place" (Avot 3:22).

Just as a tree needs soil, water, air and sunlight, so does a person need to be spiritually rooted and connected with a source of nourishment. Water to a tree, Torah wisdom for us - as Moses proclaims: "May my teaching drop like the rain" (Deut. 32:2). Air for the tree, spirituality for us - as the Torah states that "God breathed life into the form of Man (Genesis 2:7)." Sunlight for a tree, the warmth of friendship and community for a person. Rabbi Shraga Simmons wrote a beautiful article, "Man is a Tree," expanding on this theme. Also, worth reading: Rabbi Avi Geller's "Lively Overview." Both are available at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat/tubshvatdefault/default.asp.

For more on "Tu B'Shvat" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!

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Torah Portion of the Week
Beshalach

The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses with the men and Miriam with the women -each separately - sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.

They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites:

"If you obey God your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am God who heals you."

(This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt - the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)

Later the Israelites rebel over lack of food; God provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. God tells Moses to strike a stone (later in the Torah God tells Moses to speak to the stone, not here!) which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And it was when Pharaoh sent the people, the Almighty did not lead them by the land of the Philistines, for the Almighty said perhaps the people will regret (leaving Egypt) and will return to Egypt."

How is it possible that after all the Jewish people suffered in Egypt and all of the miracles that the Almighty performed for them that they could even consider going back?

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman comments on this that a person is a mixture of a body and a soul. Even when a person is on a very high spiritual level, he can fall. One needs constant vigilance. At one moment a person can be very elevated. However, if he panics he can behave in a very immature way. Although the Israelites had a great awareness, it could be lost in a very short time.

This same concept of the changeability of a person gives one great hope, concludes Rav Yehuda Leib. If you can fall quickly, you can pick yourself up very quickly, too. Never despair when you feel that you are on a low level. If you are sincerely resolved to climb spiritually, you have the ability to instantaneously put yourself back on the path of life.

Don't waste time with self-pity if you feel that you are not on the level you want to be. Realize that you can obtain great heights at any moment if you have the determination to do so!


CANDLE LIGHTING - January 18
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)

Jerusalem 4:25
Guatemala 5:31 - Hong Kong 5:44 - Honolulu 5:54
J'Burg 6:46 - London 4:07 - Los Angeles 4:51
Melbourne 8:24 - Mexico City 6:02 - Miami 5:37
New York 4:38 - Singapore 6:59 - Toronto 4:51



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

Triumph is "umph" added to try!



In Loving Memory of
Ralph E. Dweck
by Gregory Dweck

Published: January 12, 2008

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