January 30, 1999 13 Shebat 5759
Tu Bishvat will be celebrated on Monday, February 1.
BUILDING BLOCKS by Rabbi Reuven Semah
"This is my G-d and I will build Him a sanctuary, the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him" (Shemot 15:2)
As the Jews were crossing the Red Sea, they saw an electrifying revelation of Hashem and pointed to Hashem and said, "This is my G-d." This pasuk has so much meaning both in the first half of the sentence and the second half. As I grew up in our community in Brooklyn, I prayed every day in Shaare Zion Congregation. This pasuk is engraved in the white marble of our beautiful hechal. I always admired it and I still do whenever I see it, as I am sure everyone else does. The meaning of the pasuk is so fitting. "This is my G-d and I will build him a sanctuary," means that the Israelites were so overwhelmed with love of Hashem that they desired to build a beautiful sanctuary (Temple) for Hashem. I think our community fathers were also inspired to build such a beautiful synagogue like Shaare Zion. It took great courage and confidence to build such an edifice which, at the time, was heralded as a work of perhaps the greatest architectural beauty of its time. This courage had to have its roots in great love of Hashem.
The end of the pasuk mentions Hashem as the G-d of our fathers. The fathers are the great Patriarchs, Abraham, Yitzhak and Ya'akob. Why mention them now at the Red Sea? The Israelites at this time experienced the greatest spiritual high a nation ever felt, perhaps a vision higher than the vision of the Patriarchs! As Rashi says, they saw what prophets did not see! At that time they might have felt there really is no need for the forefathers. To dispel this notion, the Israelites sang out, "Hashem is the G-d of our fathers." For even though there is no comparison to seeing something for yourself, it is heightened considerably if it is supported and rooted in the greatness of the Patriarchs, for only then will this inspiring sight have continuity and be everlasting. It shouldn't be just a fleeting glimpse only to be quickly forgotten.
The Talmud (Shabbat 30.) says that when King Solomon built the first Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem it was the most beautiful building ever. Upon completion there was a great celebration to bring in the holy Aron, the Ark that contained the Ten Commandments. However, the gates of the Hechal would not open to allow it in. The entire nation waited while King Solomon prayed to Hashem to allow the doors to open, to no avail. Finally, he began singing to Hashem about the greatness of his father, King David, and the gateway immediately opened. We must never stop praising our forefathers' greatness for it is truly the source of our own greatness and courage. Shabbat Shalom.
THANKS FOR EVERYTHING by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
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.
I'LL DRINK TO THAT!
And the Children of Israel came to Marah and they were not able to drink the waters at Marah for they were bitter" (Shemot 15:23)
The Kotzker Rebbe explained the words, "for they were bitter" as referring to the people themselves. When someone is bitter himself, everything tastes bitter.
This concept holds true in many areas of life. If a person feels bitter nothing in life appears positive. Anyone looking for faults and defects will always be able to find them. A bitter person makes himself miserable and those in his environment suffer with him. While he thinks that he has valid reasons for considering things to be bitter, the source of the problem is not out there, but within himself. By sweetening one's own outlook, one will live in a much sweeter world. (Growth through Torah)
"And he said: If you will surely listen to the voice of G-d and do what is right in His eyes, hear His commandments and keep His statutes, then any of the diseases I placed upon Egypt I will not bring upon you, for I am G-d, your healer" (Shemot 15:26)
What is the connection between obeying Torah and Hashem being the healer?
Unfortunately, there are people who refuse to fulfill misvot with the argument that they do not understand their purpose. The response to them is: When one, G-d forbid, is ill, he visits a doctor who prescribes medication. Though the patient is not a pharmacist and has no knowledge of the effect of the medication, he puts his trust in the doctor and eventually becomes healthy. Likewise, Hashem is our doctor. He prescribes Torah and misvot to keep us spiritually healthy. We must follow His instructions regardless of whether we understand how they can benefit us. (Vedibarta Bam)
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