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Shabbat Shira & Tu
By Rabbi Yonassan Biggs
we read the portion of Beshalach. This week’s portion contains
many miracles and many tests of faith that the Jewish people
endured. All of the miracles teach us to rely on Hashem and
follow His directives. After the Jewish people left
Pharaoh and his army chased them, pinning them against the
ocean. The Jewish people were thrown into a state of confusion.
Amongst the people there were those who wished to return to
Hashem told Moshe to tell the people to go forward. Nachshon Ben
Aminadav, the prince of the Tribe of Yehudah, jumped into the
water. Moshe raised his staff, Hashem split the waters and the
Jewish people went through the seabed on dry ground. Thereafter,
when the Jewish people left the seabed, the Egyptians pursued.
The ocean closed, swallowing them and finally ending the
Egyptian threat to the Exodus. Upon witnessing this, Moshe and
the Jewish people sang praise to Hashem. The song of praise that
they sang is called the “Shirah” (song) of the sea, and is part
of the daily prayers. This is the reason why this Shabbat is
called Shabbat Shirah, because we read the Shirah of the sea.
The Egyptian army carried with them vast treasures, which the
Jewish people took before their next journey. This teaches us
that what seems to be a difficulty (such as the Egyptian army’s
pursuit) is often a source of unexpected blessing.
the Jewish came to an oasis called Elim. The Torah tells us that
there were twelve wells and seventy date palms. Rashi explains
that these paralleled the twelve tribes and the seventy elders.
This was a hint from Hashem that our food and water come in the
merit of the forefathers and the merit of Torah scholars.
when the Jewish people lacked bread, Hashem sent bread from
heaven. The bread was sent in a manner to teach them to have
faith. Each day there was only sufficient for that day. It was
forbidden to save for the next day. Further, however much one
tried to gather, he only had enough for one day. This teaches us
that to realize that our sustenance comes only from Hashem. If
we deserve to receive a certain amount, all of our efforts to
make more will be to no avail. The way to attain more is by
meriting more in Hashem’s judgment. Hashem forbade them to
gather the bread on Shabbat. Those who went to gather came empty
handed. This teaches us that when we must seek sustenance only
in accordance with Hashem’s will.
Jewish people needed water, two miracles occurred. First, Moshe
threw a tree into bitter waters and sweetened them. Later, he
hit a rock and water came forth. The tree is symbolic of the
Torah, which is called an Eitz Chaim (Tree of Life). The Torah
teaches us how to reveal the sweetness in the bitter. The water
flowing from the rock teaches us that our true source of
sustenance is completely hidden from us, just as the water was
concealed in the rock.
nation called Amalek rose up against the Jewish people. The war
was a miraculous one. When Moshe’s hands were uplifted, the
Jewish people succeeded. When Moshe lowered his hands, Amalek
prevailed. This taught us that all of our success in overcoming
evil was dependent upon Moshe. The Targum teaches that the final
vanquishing of Amalek will be in the time of Moshiach. May we
merit that as we study the redemption, we shall experience it!
February 9th, is Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of
the Hebrew month of Shevat. The Gemarrah in Rosh Hashanah states
that the fifteenth of Shevat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees.
This is because the sap begins to flow again after the winter.
Although the Gemarrah is referring to the agricultural laws of
tithing and Shemittah, throughout the world Tu B’Shevat is
celebrated as a holiday by not saying Tachanun and by eating
special fruits. It is customary to make the blessing on the
fruits for which
is famous, namely grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates.
It is also customary to eat a new fruit and make the blessing “Shehechiyanu,”
which shows our gratitude that Hashem has kept us alive to reach
this day. Using fruits to make blessings is a supplication to
Hashem that He should bless the fruits of this year and by
making the blessing on fruits connected with
we enhance Hashem’s blessing and protection of the land. It is
desirable to have a gathering and make the blessings together.
adds blessing and adds to the festive spirit. Further, it
creates an opportunity to include others who might not celebrate
the holiday. This is particularly relevant this year, which is a
Hakhel year, when every gathering brings a special blessing.
The New Year
for trees has important lessons for each of us. A person is
compared to a tree. Just as a tree constantly grows, a person
must constantly progress. A person is also meant to bear fruits.
It is not sufficient that we grow ourselves; we must also affect
our surroundings. Just as a tree bears fruit from year to year,
we mustn’t be satisfied with our effect on the world until now.
We must keep giving and doing and growing.
Jewish people are compared to a tree. Although each branch grows
in its own direction, they are all part of one tree. The
strength of each limb of the tree aids the entire tree, and the
weakness of any limb effects the other limbs. Whatever
directions we take, we are one people. When we strengthen each
other, we strengthen ourselves. This is alluded to in the name
of the month, Shevat. The word Shevat is related to the Hebrew
Shevet, which means branch.
tells us that fruits represent Mitzvot. When a tree gives
fruit, it doesn’t lose its power to bear fruit, but instead
grows. When we do a Mitzvah, even if it seems difficult or
costly, Hashem repays us and gives us the strength to perform
another Mitzvah. When we plant a seed, we don’t see the fruits
for a very long time. However, from one seed grows a tree that
produces thousands of fruits each year, each capable of
producing new trees. We don’t always see the effect of the
Mitzvot that we do. However, Hashem nurtures them and they bear
fruit for us, our children, and all of those who follow.
grant that this Tu B’Shevat usher in a new era of joy, healing,
new growth and prosperity, particularly in
The Tanya explains that all of the good things that will occur
when Moshiach comes are a direct result of our service of Hashem
in Galut (exile). Each Mitzvah is a seed, whose fruit we will
see at that time. May the joy of redemption replace the pain of
||Rabbi Yonassan Biggs is from
Chabad of Great Neck, NY. His website is:
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