Torah Weekly - Parshat Beshalach

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Parshat Beshalach

For the week ending 15 Shevat Tevet 5760 / 21 & 22 January 2000

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  • Insights:
  • The ABC of Ecology
  • Haftorah
  • Two Great Women
  • Love of the Land
  • Motza
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    Pharaoh finally sends B'nei Yisrael out of Egypt. Hashem leads them toward Eretz Yisrael with pillars of cloud and fire on a circuitous route, avoiding the Pelishtim (Philistines). Pharaoh regrets the loss of so many slaves and chases the Jews with his army. The Jews are very afraid as the Egyptians draw close, but Hashem protects them. Moshe raises his staff and Hashem splits the sea, enabling the Jews to cross safely. Pharaoh, his heart hardened by Hashem, commands his army to pursue, whereupon the waters crash down upon the Egyptian army. Moshe and Miriam lead the men and women, respectively, in a song of thanks. After three days' travel only to find bitter waters at Marah, the people complain. Moshe miraculously produces potable water. In Marah they receive certain mitzvot. The people complain to Moshe and Aharon that they ate better food in Egypt. Hashem sends quail for meat and provides manna, a miraculous bread that falls from the sky every day except Shabbat. On Friday a double portion descends to supply the Shabbat needs. No one is able obtain more than his daily portion, but manna collected on Friday suffices for two days so the Jews can rest on Shabbat. Some manna is set aside as a memorial for future generations. When the Jews again complain about a lack of water, Moshe miraculously produces water from a rock. Then Amalek attacks. Joshua leads the Jews in battle while Moshe prays for their welfare.



    The ABC of Ecology

    "This is the thing that Hashem has commanded, 'Gather from it, for every man according to what he eats - an omer per person - according to the number of your people, everyone according to whomever is in his tent shall you take.' " (16:16)

    The world gets smaller every day. One of the fears of living in a global village is that the village store is going to run out of food. Will we wake up one day and find our planet can no longer support its population? For years, science fiction has dwelled on highly imaginative schemes to "farm" the solar system. Here's the good news. You can relax and stop planning your trip to Andromeda. It isn't going to happen.

    The letters of the Hebrew language are the building blocks of Creation. When G-d created this existence, He did so using "speech." "And G-d said: Let there be light…And G-d said, let there be sky....And G-d said..." This is not merely a narrative tool, a stylistic convention; it means that existence consists of nothing more than G-d speaking, that it is built out of letters and words. This explains why the Hebrew word for "thing," davar, is comprised of the same letters as the word for "speech," dibur. Ultimately, "things" are no more than G-d's "words."

    There's a prayer we say three times a day called Ashrei (Ashrei is the first word of this prayer.) Ashrei is a combination of two of the Psalms of King David. What is so important about these particular Psalms that we say them three times a day?

    If you open a siddur, you'll notice that the first letters of each line of Ashrei go in alphabetical order: The first line starts with aleph, the second with beit, etc. Ashrei also contains the verse "You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of all life." This is a promise that G-d will sustain each one of us. What is the connection between having enough to eat and the aleph-beit?

    With that same aleph-beit that G-d created the world, He creates a sufficiency for every living thing. G-d created this world with a plan. Man is the centerpiece of this plan. Just as He created the ABC of Creation, He has made sure that His plan will be fulfilled, right down to XY and Z. Every creature will receive its needs. We don't have to worry that there won't be enough for everyone to eat. We don't have to worry that the world will become overpopulated. With that same "whole cloth" that G-d fabricated existence, the aleph-beit, He provided a sufficiency for His Creation at all times.

    "This is the thing that Hashem has commanded, 'Gather from it, for every man according to what he eats - an omer per person - according to the number of your people, everyone according to whomever is in his tent shall you take.' "

    In this week's Parsha, we learn of the manna, the miraculous food that sustained the Jewish People for 40 years in the desert. Manna is the prototype of G-d sustaining man miraculously, providing for his every need. Just as in Ashrei, the above verse illustrates that every person receives according to his needs. And interestingly, it also contains all twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Also, if you count the Hebrew letters of this verse, you will find they add up to 70. This corresponds to our global village's seventy nations who are constantly sustained by the Creator.

    You don't have to worry. The "village store" is never going to be "out of bread."


    • Rabbi Sholem Fishbane in the name of Rabbi Uziel Milevsky from Rabbeinu Bachye


    Shoftim 4:3 - 5:31



    After 20 years of Canaanite oppression, the core of the Jewish people are lead to repentance by Devorah the Prophetess. The Sages compare the results of her inspirational leadership to "the restoration of the wick for the light of the Sanctuary." Through her shining example, she rejuvenated the bearers of the light of Torah.

    In the merit of this mass repentance, Devorah receives a prophecy that she should lead 10,000 men into battle and that G-d would deliver the Canaanite General Sisera into the hands of the Jewish army. G-d causes confusion amongst Sisera's camp, and the Jews overpower them. Sisera flees to the encampment of Chever, who was at peace with the King of Canaan. There he seeks refuge in the tent of Yael, Chever's wife. Yael invites him into her tent, guaranteeing his safety. When he requested water to drink, she gave him milk to make him drowsy. When he was fast asleep, she picked up a hammer and drove a tent peg through his temple. Thus Israel was saved. After the victory, Devorah leads the Nation in a song of praise to G-d. This song outlines the recurring theme in the history of Israel: Oppression — Repentance — Victory.

    Both the Parsha and the Haftara contain a national song of praise to G-d. Perhaps another similarity is to be found in the words our of Sages that the Exodus took place in the merit of the righteous women of Israel, who played as great a role then as would Devorah and Yael in the future.

    Love of the Land
    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between
    the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael


    This small settlement just outside Jerusalem is mentioned in the Talmud (Mesechta Succah 45a) as the source of the aravah willow branches that were brought daily to the Beit Hamikdash during the Succot Festival and placed alongside the altar. This place was also known as Kalania, both names referring to the special status it enjoyed of being exempt from government taxes.

    Motza is an attractive suburb of the capital, and home of an old Jerusalem winery. Its numerous aravah willow trees continue to supply the branches used by Jerusalemites for the fulfillment of the mitzvot on Succot.

    Love of the Land Archives

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Eli Ballon

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