FEBRUARY 3-4, 2012 11 SHEBAT 5772
"It happened when Pharaoh sent out the people. (Shemot 13:17)
According to the Midrash (Mechilta), the expression "sent out" implies an escort or accompaniment. Thus Pharaoh escorted the Israelites out of Egypt with honor. While the Jews were in Egypt their plight became unbearable. Not only was the work backbreaking, but Pharaoh decreed that they must gather their own straw. With this additional burden the Jews could think only of how to rid themselves of their brutal masters. It is therefore inconceivable that the Jews would even consider returning to Egypt of their own free will. Yet the Perashah begins by telling us that Hashem had to take them out of Egypt with a roundabout circuit so they would not go back. This seems to defy logic.
However, the Midrash quoted above reveals to us the unique character of Israel. During their final days in Egypt the Egyptians befriended the Jews. They lent them gold and silver and Pharaoh himself turned out to escort them. This is the error which seems typical of the Jewish people. Foolishly we tend to quickly forget the harshness of the nations of the world. All they need to do is favor us with the slightest smile and we believe they are our best friends. When Pharaoh sent us out with a smile the possibility already existed that they might lose heart and return to Egypt at the slightest sign of an obstacle, especially an attack. For this reason Hashem took the people, who were already excited by the honor Pharaoh gave them, along a circuitous path "by way of the desert."
We also love the Americans, and that is a good thing. We should love the nations of the world. The only thing is that we shouldn't rely on them but only on Hashem. Even in our post-Holocaust era the lesson is not to hate the Germans but we learned that in our exiles we should rely only on Hashem. 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 Amalek came and battled with Yisrael in Refidim." (Shemot 17:8)
The Ramban writes that when B'nei Yisrael went forth to wage war with Amalek, Moshe feared the worst. He prayed intensely to Hashem on their behalf. The Ramban questions Moshe's concern. Had not Hashem performed miracles for them? Was there any reason for Him to neglect them at this stage of their redemption?
The Ramban explains that Moshe feared Amalek particularly because he was Esav's grandson. Esav had been assured of the blessing of "by your sword you shall live." This blessing accorded him great physical might, which assured him of success in his battles. This blessing was the source of Ya'akob's fear. His response was based upon his own blessing from his father, "The voice is the voice of Ya'akob (and the hands are the hands of Esav)." Ya'akob was blessed with the power of tefillah, prayer. Ya'akob had the ability to conquer Esav's "hands" by using his "voice."
Rav Yechezkel Levenstein zt"l points out that keeping this concept in mind, we should reflect upon the power of prayer. Each prayer intrinsically contains the blessing of Ya'akob. Every time we stand before Hashem and entreat Him through prayer, we are able to use "Bircat Ya'akob" to ascend the loftiest spiritual heights in order to attain our request. How often do we neglect this blessing and pray without feeling and concentration? How many of life's trials and tribulations could be mitigated through this unique blessing? We should bear in mind that prayer is more than good advice; it is a unique gift bequeathed to the descendants of Ya'akob. (Peninim on the Torah)
Getting dressed in the morning is distressing to many people. They are attacked by feelings of insecurity and doubt as they try to match their exterior trappings to their internal mood. Others experience pride and excitement as they coordinate their look for the upcoming day of work or play. Whatever your attitude toward clothing may be, you cannot deny its power in projecting your image to others, and the ego-building potential a good outfit contains.
Clothing tells others who you are and how you feel about life. Are you blas? and nonchalant? Do you seek attention or hide from the stares of other people? Are you a doctor, policeman, Rabbi, or athlete? Do you earn a good income, or must you struggle to make ends meet? Are you neat or sloppy?
Clothes say a lot about a person!
In Judaism, clothes hold a place of special importance; in fact, Rabbi Yochanan called his clothes his "honor." Everyone is taught to dress in a fashion that is worthy of a diplomat in Hashem's Foreign Service. We acknowledge the gift of clothing from Hashem in our morning blessings, and blessings are said when new garments are worn. A husband should make sure that his wife has a special holy-day wardrobe to greet our yamim tovin (holidays).
As you catch sight of your reflection in the mirror, storefront glass, or reflective car window, ask yourself, "Do I appreciate the clothing Hashem has given me? Am I using the opportunity of getting dressed to create a mood, an image, and a style that makes me feel good - and my Maker, too?" Then say, "Thank you Hashem!" (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (Privacy of email limited by the email address)
Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.
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