Pop Quiz: Which of Ya'akob's sons' bones were taken out of Egypt during the Exodus?
One of the beautiful customs that we have is that of families getting together to celebrate Tu Bishbat. Some have plates and plates of all the different fruits and nuts representing all the berachot while other families have bags of these delicacies for the children. Besides showing appreciation to Hashem for all His bounty, what relevance does this holiday have to us?
The Rabbis tell us that on Tu Bishbat, the juices of the trees
begin to flow again, getting ready for another season of producing
leaves and fruits. It is a time that Hashem "remembers" the trees,
deciding which one will flourish and which one will not, and indeed,
the Sages tell us that one should pray for a nice Etrog on Tu
Bishbat. The lesson for us is very heartening. If Hashem, Who
runs the entire universe, can involve Himself with the smallest detail
of which tree will grow to which size, is He not watching and
guiding and protecting all His creations, especially His Chosen
People? If we can appease Him regarding the welfare of plants and
trees by making the right berachot on Tu Bishbat, surely we can
pray to Him to bring about our salvation on a general and individual
level. We need His protection all the time, especially for our people
living in Israel, who are always the target of our enemies, may
Hashem protect them! Let us continue our beautiful customs and
learn the underlying lesson that it is Hashem who rules the world
and to Him do we turn for everything. Tizku Leshanim Rabot!
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
"The children of Israel were armed when they went up from Egypt" (Shemot 13:18)
The Israelites leave Egypt. The Torah tells us they left "hamushim", armed. However, Rashi also explains it to mean that only one-fifth of the Jews left Egypt; the other four-fifths died in Egypt during the plague of darkness. Many wicked Jews who felt comfortable in Egypt didn't want to leave, so Hashem did away with them during the darkness so that the Egyptians shouldn't see that the Jews were also being smitten.
Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein asks: Why did Hashem wait until then, which left no choice but to kill them all at once and hide it from Egypt? Why didn't He do it a little at a time so that the Egyptians wouldn't notice it? The answer gives us an important insight into human nature. At first, all the Jews said and felt they wanted to leave but knew they couldn't because of Pharaoh. But as time passed, Pharaoh began to concede to Moshe's demands and asked who exactly wants to go. As it became more and more a real possibility, the yeser hara, the evil inclination in every man, started working hard on the Israelites. Finally the ones who were wealthy and comfortable gave in to the steeped up efforts of the yeser hara. This only happened at the end, so Hashem had no choice but to punish them together under the cover of darkness.
We see that they sincerely said they wanted to go but as
long as it wasn't pertinent, the yeser hara left it at that. Only later
did he put on the pressure to stay. The lesson is powerful. One
never really knows his true abilities and desires until it comes to a
time of real hard decisions. Then he will see if he can conquer the
yeser hara. For only then does he do battle. Another related
lesson: If you see your most wicked enemy who has done terrible
things, if you hadn't been faced with the exact same situation, don't
condemn him. You might do the same given that situation.
A WOMAN'S TOUCH
"Miriam told them, 'Sing to G-d; He is mighty and exalted; the horse and its rider He threw into the sea.'" (Shemot 15:21)
Why did Miriam emphasize to the women the drowning of the horse and rider?
The ultimate purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was to receive the Torah, which all men are obligated to study. According to the Gemara, although women are not obligated to fulfill the misvah of Torah study, they are rewarded for helping their husbands and children study.
When Hashem drowned the Egyptians and their horses, Miriam wondered why the unfortunate horses were punished. What wrong had they done? She concluded that since the horses were assisting the riders in their evil plans, they too deserved punishment. From this she deduced how great the reward would be for women who assist and inspire their husbands and children to study Torah. (Vedibarta Bam)
TREE OF LIFE
"The first day of Shebat is the new year for the tree according to Bet Shammai. Bet Hillel says it is on the fifteenth (Tu Bishbat)" (Rosh Hashanah 2a)
The Torah states "Man is like a tree of the field (Debarim 20:19). The Jewish people have been compared to different trees.
What lesson can we learn from trees?
Answer to pop quiz: All twelve of them (see Rashi 13:19)
Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.