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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 21 Issue 3
Jan. 13-19, 7-13 Shevat 5779
Torah Reading: Beshalach
 Candle Lighting: 5:33 PM
Shabbos Ends: 6:30 PM
Shabbos Shira

 

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi
Essay ·
Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Beshalach
Exodus: 13:17-17:16

Soon after allowing the children of Israel to  depart from Egypt, Pharaoh chases after them to force their return, and the Israelites find themselves  trapped between Pharaoh’s armies and the sea. G‑d tells Moses to raise his staff over the water; the  sea splits to allow the Israelites to pass through, and then closes over the pursuing Egyptians.  Moses and the children of Israel  sing a  song of praise and gratitude to G‑d.

In the desert the people suffer thirst and hunger, and repeatedly  complain to Moses and Aaron. G‑d miraculously sweetens the bitter waters of Marah, and later has Moses bring forth  water from a rock by striking it with his staff. He causes  manna to rain down from the heavens before dawn each morning, and  quails to appear in the Israelite camp each evening.

The children of Israel are instructed to gather a  double portion of manna on Friday, as none will descend on  Shabbat, the divinely decreed day of rest. Some disobey and go to gather manna on the seventh day, but find nothing. Aaron preserves a small quantity of manna in a  jar, as a  testimony for future generations.

In Rephidim, the people are attacked by the  Amalekites, who are defeated by Moses’ prayers and an army raised by  Joshua.

A Word From the Rabbi

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WHO IS YOUR MOSHE?
"Real Time" VS Static Judaism

A Rebbe is far more than a Rabbi. The latter is a person who is knowledgeable about Jewish laws and practices. The Rebbe, on the other hand, not only possesses such revealed knowledge, but is also an expert on the inner essence of life, the concealed knowledge. The Rebbe is often described as a person touched by G‑d, someone who possesses immense powers to sustain the lives of his followers, his Chassidim, on earthly and spiritual planes. The Chassidim, in turn, feel dependent on their Rebbe for guidance and help in accessing Divine grace about all matters — spiritual and mundane (Dr Joseph H. Berke: A Tale of Two Orphans)

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“They believed in G‑d and in Moshe His servant” (Exodus 14:31)

Is Judaism a static religion? Or is it a living; “breathing,” religion? To explain the question: Has G‑d communicated all the knowledge and guidance He ever wished to share, albeit with eternal relevance, in a prior era and form, or does He, according to Jewish faith, continue to communicate and guide his people in “Real time?” The answer is yes and no. How is that for rabbinical verdict?

What is meant by this is that on some level everything has already been transmitted within the confines of the written and oral Torah, while on another level, Divine guidance is a continuous and ongoing phenomenon. Let us explore the meaning of this assertion, beginning with our very Parsha, Beshalach.

It has been described, in the narrative leading up to our Parsha, how a battery of devastating plagues worked magic in breaking the iron resolve of the Egyptians tormenters. After two harrowing centuries of exile and slavery, the despotic King Pharaoh and his barbaric taskmasters suddenly found themselves all but eager to release the Israelites from their evil clutches.

With their sights set on Sinai and the long awaited rendezvous with G‑d, the Children of Israel were free at last; well on their way to a future of hope and promise, or so they thought. But alas, in an unexpected turn of events, their hopes were quickly dashed.

Having experienced a complete change of heart, Pharaoh’s army was now in hot pursuit of their former slaves and closing-in from behind. To add insult to injury, directly ahead lay the fearsome sight of the Sea of Reeds.

Suddenly, the fledgling nation found itself caught between a rock and a hard place, or more accurately, between the extended spears of the advancing Egyptian army and the swelling waves of the fast approaching Sea.

With Egypt on the prowl, Israel’s brief brush with freedom was slipping rapidly. The elation resulting from their miraculous liberation gave way to confusion and alarm. Gripped by panic the newly formed nation reacted in hysteria: "The Children of Israel raised their eyes and 

behold! – the Egyptians were advancing after them. They were very frightened, so the Children of Israel cried out to G‑d. . ." (Exodus 14:10)

The Midrash purports that the Israelites – in what was to become proverbial Jewish tradition – were arguing amongst themselves. Some said: “Let us throw ourselves into the sea.” Others exclaimed: “Let us return to Egypt.” Another faction argued: “Let us wage war upon the Egyptians.” And yet a fourth camp advocated: “Let us pray to G‑d.”

In an effort to restore order, Moshe declares: “Fear not, stand by and see the salvation of G‑d which He will show you today; for as you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again, forever. G‑d shall fight for you, and you shall be silent” (Exodus 14:13).

These words, asserts the Midrash, imply Moshe's rejection of all four options: “Fear not, stand by and see the salvation of G‑d,” is Moshe’s response to those who had despaired of the Egyptian threat and wanted to plunge into the sea.

“As you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again,” addresses those who advocated surrender and return to Egypt.

“G‑d shall fight for you,” is the answer to those who wished to battle the Egyptians.

“And you shall be silent.” is Moshe’s rejection of those who said, “This is all beyond us. All we can do is pray.”

Yet, if all the stated opinions were wrong, what was Israel supposed to do during this life threatening crisis? Moreover, all of the alternatives seem rather reasonable – solutions that at one occasion or another, in Jewish history, proved effective and even prescribed by G‑d.

For example, Israel’s response to the attack on the part of the Amaleikites, related at the end of our very own Parsha, called for the Jewish nation to “Go out and do battle with Amaleik” – an idea rejected in our situation. If this response was right there, why was it wrong here?

The other solutions have also proven valid on respective occasions. Esther, for example asked Mordechai to “Go and gather all the Jewish people and fast for me. . .” Why was fasting and praying correct then, but not now?

Neither is martyrdom without precedent in the annals of Jewish history. We are all familiar with the story of the ten martyrs and the legendary episode of Massada. In fact, wasn’t the binding of Yitzchok, G‑d’s tenth test of Avraham, a call to martyrdom? Why then was the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem ruled out here? Moreover, if different crisis require different reactions, how are we to ever know which response is correct in any given circumstance?

The answer to these deserving queries is actually the very point of the entire narrative – the lesson of the legendary blunder at the banks of the Yam Suf.

"Speak to the Children of Israel," G‑d says to Moshe, in response to all their fussing, tell them "That they should go forward," i.e., they should follow the directives which have been set forth. In other words: "Let Me give the orders while you do the following and not the other way around."

The varied camps all committed the same error. They all based their opinions and suggestions on their own imaginations. Instead of looking to G‑d and Moshe for direction, they turned to themselves. They never even thought to consider whether G‑d had something to say about all this and where to turn to find His true will.

The voyage from Egypt to Sinai is emblematic of the perpetual voyage from exile to redemption – the ongoing assignment to transform humanity and the very world into a G‑dly domain. At the very inception of the Journey we are taught a critical lesson. Man, in his service of G‑d, must seek-out the true intent of G‑d.

We must know that G‑d’s true will is not found within our own. It has nothing at all to do with one’s own logic, feelings and motives. There is G‑d's will and then there is ours. While at times the two may seem as though they are one and the same, this is usually because we have not yet learned to tell them apart. As we grow in our understanding and service of G‑d through Torah, we learn to distinguish between G‑d's intention and our own spin.

Now as then, we are faced with multiple voices and multiple choices at every crossroads in our national and personal journey from Egypt to Sinai and beyond. Now as then, there are voices – inner as well as outer – that claim to be that of G‑d. Voices that are eager to share their opinions on when and how we ought to proceed and what G‑d’s intentions really are.

The premier message to the newborn nation of Israel upon the onset of its journey, and the premier lesson for every Jew in his personal spiritual journey, is that not all voices that speak in the name of G‑d belong to G‑d.

But how are we to know which voice is from G‑d and which is from elsewhere? This is perhaps the most essential skill taught by Judaism. In fact, much of Chassidic philosophy is designed to help accomplish this very task.

A most basic principle, without which it is virtually impossible to overcome this obstacle, is the need follow the guidance of Moshe Rabbeinu. The lesson of the first Jewish crisis in history is that to follow G‑d is to follow and subordinate oneself to a Moshe. In absence of a Moshe there is no Judaism, nor is there a knowable G‑d.

In more practical terms, this means that a Jew cannot go-it-alone. A Jew cannot rely on himself to determine and decipher the credibility of every voice – he cannot trust himself to navigate every fork in the road. This is precisely what our sages meant when they say: "Make for yourself a teacher and free yourself from doubt." – Avos 1:16

Making for oneself a teacher, however, should not be confused with "Teacher hopping," or "Teacher shopping." The latter is a common syndrome, which involves, amongst others, people who are new to Torah observance but refuse to follow or commit themselves to an established path. They prefer to glean a little here and a little there, and the rest they make up themselves.

For some the internet, AKA the “Webbe Rebbe,” has become the new Moshe.” They consult various websites etc. and pick and choose from each that which they like, and leave that which they don't.

Now to be sure, there is nothing wrong with the internet as a source of raw information and knowledge, but by no means does it provide a reliable path and approach to the service of G‑d – by no means does it take the place of a teacher and mentor.

As Jews we must always remember the lesson of the fateful experience on the banks of the Red Sea, when G‑d said to Moshe…. “Speak to the Children of Israel that they should go forward.” We must look to the Moshe in our lives and discern between the voice of G‑d and the voices that wish to present themselves as G‑d, be it from within or without. Only then can we be certain that our ideas and ideologies are not rooted in one of the four camps which entirely missed the mark, good as their intentions might have been.

By following the call of the Moshe of our generation, his teachings and guidance through which G‑d continues to communicate with us, we will be sure not to veer from the Divine intention and path and thereby fulfill our G‑dly mission in making this world into a dwelling place for Him with the coming of the righteous Moshiach BBA.

Gut Shabbos!

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Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 

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How to Be a Nice Person

There was once a woman who had a very serious problem. She was 26 years old and as lonely as a stone in a field. She didn’t have a single friend, couldn’t get along with anyone, and couldn’t maintain a relationship. Why? Because, to put it bluntly, her behavior was obnoxious. She was petty, she was selfish, she was jealous and she was cruel. She tried desperately to control her negative traits, and spent years in every kind of counseling and therapy, without success.

When she thought she had reached the end of her rope, she heard that there was a wise, saintly man in Brooklyn who might be able to help her with her problem: Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, leader of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement. She came to him and presented him with an eight-page analysis of her problem.

The venerable rabbi, known as the Rebbe, gave her some very simple advice. He told her that when she returned to the college campus where she was attending school, she should make it a habit to serve other people during meals.

“Whatever it is that someone else might need,” the Rebbe said, “the butter, the sugar, the salt, a glass of water, whatever it is, it should become your habit to bring it to them.” The woman was relieved. Instead of analyzing her, the Rebbe had given her something she could actually do.

Looking back, she saw it this way: “A selfish, petty, egotistical person came to the Rebbe and said, ‘Rebbe, I need advice. I don’t know what to do. I’m not a nice person. What should I do?’

“And the Rebbe said, in effect, ‘Not nice? So be nice. What’s the question? You don’t like being not nice? So, who’s forcing you? You want to be nice? Good. Then here’s how you start: Bring somebody a glass of water.’”

In other words, if you’re not a nice person, don’t stop and analyze it. Just start thinking, speaking and acting in a nice manner.

This story was originally told by Rabbi Manis Friedman in "Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore?"

In this week’s Torah portion we read about the 10 plagues that G‑d visited upon the Egyptians, and Pharaoh’s final capitulation before letting the Jews leave. It’s a fascinating story, filled with drama and excitement, and we recount it each year at the Passover Seder.

At its most basic level, the Torah is describing an actual series of historical events, peopled by a cast of real-life characters. But the story can also be read as an allegory of our collective soul-journey from the darkness that is exile towards the freedom to worship G‑d on His terms. From this perspective, the Egyptians represent the forces of unadulterated evil, while the 10 plagues are stages in the gradual abnegation of ego and the process of revealing G‑d’s active presence on this world.

So, for example, after eight previous stages, the ninth plague of darkness is described in the Torah as “thick darkness over the entire land of Egypt for three days. No man saw his fellow and no one rose from his place for three days.” 1

Read at its most literal level, the Torah is simply describing the cloyingly thick veil of darkness that descended on the Egyptians, trapping them in their homes for three days in a row, unable to see each other or even to stand up straight. However, implicit within the text is also a profound moral teaching: The true definition of darkness is a person who cannot “see his fellow” or respond to his needs. And someone who doesn’t care about the needs of others will never “rise from his place.” He’ll be stuck in the same rut for the rest of his life, unhappy with himself but unable to change for the better.

So the darkness was not just a punishment for the Egyptians’ sins. It was a manifestation of their lack of empathy and caring.

It takes a Moses to point out the artificiality and instability of our present existence. A true leader will tell you that if you want to like yourself and want to be admired, don’t waste your time sitting around in your current darkness—get up and be of service to another. If you can learn this lesson, thinking and caring about friends and strangers before you worry about yourself, then eventually you’ll be able to free yourself from your own private gloom and start along the path to the Promised Land.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum is spiritual leader of Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation and co-director of L’Chaim Chabad in Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia.

Thoughts That Count
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And the people believed in G‑d, and in Moses, His servant (Ex. 14:31)

A person who believes in the leader of the generation has faith in 'He Who Uttered and the world was brought into being.' Every single Jew, regardless of his spiritual attainments, must cleave to the Moses who exists in every generation, for through him he cleaves to G‑d Himself. (Likutei Torah)

And they believed in G‑d and in Moses His servant...Then sang Moses (Ex. 14:31, 15:1)

It was precisely because the Jews believed in G‑d and that Moses was His servant that Moses was able to sing the "Song on Crossing the Red Sea." For having faith in the tzadik (righteous person) actually empowers the tzadik. (Degel Machane Efraim)

And Moses said to Yehoshua [Joshua], choose for us men...and Moses and Aaron and Chur went up to the top of the hill (Ex. 17:9)

Why was it necessary to assemble an entire team consisting of Moses, Yehoshua, Aaron and Chur to lead the Jewish army against Amalek? At that time, the Jews were fighting amongst themselves and also rebelling against G‑d. Indeed, the very name of the location where the attack occurred - Refidim - is related to the Hebrew word "pirud," meaning disunity. The first letters of the names Aaron, Chur, Yehoshua and Moses form the word "achim" - brothers. Moses' call to the Jewish people was that if they would act as brothers and live in harmony, united in the study of Torah and observance of its commandments, Amalek would never be able to penetrate the Jewish camp. (Videbarta Bam)

Once Upon A Chassid

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Going Against the Flow

Plant them on your holy mountain, in the Sanctuary of G‑d which your hands have founded (15:17)

Said the son of Kapara: greater are the deeds of the righteous than the work of heaven and earth. For concerning the work of the Creator it is written: "Also My hand [singular] has founded the earth, and My right hand has spanned the heavens"; but concerning the work of the righteous it is written, "the Sanctuary of G‑d which your hands [plural] have founded." (Talmud, Ketuvot 5a)

G‑d transforms the spiritual into a physical world, and the Jew transforms the physicality of the world to spirituality. (Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov)

The Talmud relates the following story:

So poor was Rabbi Chanina, that he would live on a kavof carobs from Friday to Friday. One day, his wife said to him: "How long must we suffer such poverty? Pray that we should be provided with sustenance." Rabbi Chanina prayed and the form of a hand extended itself from heaven and gave them a table-leg of gold.

That night, his wife saw the righteous in the world to come in a dream. Everyone was sitting at three-legged tables of gold, while she and her husband sat at a table with two legs. So again Rabbi Chanina prayed, and the golden leg was retrieved from them.

The second miracle, concludes the Talmud, was greater than the first. For while things may be given from heaven, they are not taken back.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains:

Man's mission in life involves a feat greater than G‑d's creation of the universe. The act of creation meant the formation of a physical reality out of utter nothingness (creation ex nihilo). But when man implements G‑d's will in the world, he in effect reverses the process: he shows the physical existence to be but a reflection of the all-pervading truth of G‑d - its 'formidable' mass is now seen as but an insignificant facade to a deeper spiritual reality. So if G‑d creates something out of nothingness, man makes nothing of its somethingness.

It is far easier for a spiritual reality to find expression in a physical form than for something to be divested of its physicality and revert to a purer and more elevated state. Hence the talmudic axiom: things are far more readily given from heaven than they are taken back. Or, in the words of the son of Kapara, "greater are the deeds of the righteous than the work of heaven and earth."

 

Tid Bits
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10 Paths to Becoming a More Spiritual Person
tid bit
Aren’t we all looking for greater spirituality in our lives? We connect with G‑d by keeping His commandments, but we still need to prepare the groundwork so we are on the path reaching our higher selves. Here are some ways to do so.

1. Shabbat. Shabbat is compared to 1/60 of the Next World. It’s the day we take off from our material existence to enjoy our connection with G‑d and celebrate with Him the weekly anniversary of the creation of the world. It might not seem like that somehow when we eat and sleep more that day, but when our goal is spiritual, our physical activities become imbued with holiness and spirituality. Anyone who’s eaten challah or cholent left over from Shabbat will testify that it just doesn’t taste the same. That’s because the missing ingredient is Shabbat without which, the food is just food.

2. Nature. Shabbat helps us remember that G‑d is the Creator of the Universe. You remember that, too, by admiring His majestic mountains, His frothing seas, His towering trees and His glowing sunsets. Surrounding yourself with nature gives you perspective of how small your problems seem in the vast universe and how grand that universe is. Nevertheless, the Creator of the Universe has ultimate power to help you and takes interest in even the smallest of your problems. You have the ability to connect to Him.

3. Live a simple life. Only a couple of hundred years ago, life was simple for everyone. Not simple in the sense of easy, but simpler in the sense of uncomplicated due to the fact that technology and industry had not yet appeared on the scene, life was basic and slow-paced, and very few people could afford luxuries. Review your priorities and make sure your life is not cluttered by things that are not necessary and taking up too much time or space. Simplicity is the basis of a happy and holy life.

4. Find G‑d everywhere. G‑d is everywhere. But many times, we don’t call Him by name. We use euphemisms like nature, coincidence, opportunity, serendipity and miracle. But everything that happens—everything that surrounds you—is from G‑d. Start noticing the intricacy of nature and daily miracles that happen to you, and not only will you realize that you are the beneficiary of Divine Providence, but they will increase exponentially when you see them. Keep a diary where you note every incidence of Divine Providence—aka, luck, serendipity, coincidence and miracles you see.

4. Sleep. While stories abound of righteous and holy people who hardly ever slept, these stories refer to people who are engaged 24/7 in holiness. For those of us who have not yet reached that level, we need to recharge our batteries from the day-to-day wear and tear on body and soul. So getting sufficient sleep every night is important to keep us alert, calm and well-balanced. Before we retire, we say the Shema prayer, to remind us that G‑d is always with us, and to let go and allow G‑d to take over. Say the words clearly and they may even run through your mind as you sleep. That should help us recharge our spiritual batteries and remember what we’re living for.

6. Keep an even keel. Our lives are full of worries, tragedies, annoyances and delays, but if we remember that our lives are being orchestrated from Above for our own ultimate benefit, then we would stop trying to take control of every situation and go with the flow. Submitting ourselves to G‑d’s plan will keep us calmer and more spiritually inclined.

7. Be inspired. Reading inspiring stories of Divine intervention will inspire you to connect to G‑d more in your life.

8. Surround yourself with spiritual people. It’s hard to stoke your spiritual fire when you are surrounded with people who display vulgarity, materialism, self-absorption or negativity. While everyone is on their own individual spiritual journey, try and be with people who are higher than you so that you can more easily aspire to and reach greatness.

9. Talk to G‑d. Not only formally, in prayer, but all day. It’s OK to ask Him forthe parking place or the raise or to lose five pounds before the wedding. He’s the right address for all these things. And also remember to say “thank you.” Ultimately, spirituality is a relationship with G‑d, and you can’t have a relationship without good communication. Seeing G‑d in your life is having Him talk to you. Speaking to G‑d is completing the dialogue.

10. Eschew honor and recognition. Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of Our Fathers, says that honor only pursues those who seek to escape it, and honor-seeking is one of the things that removes a person from this world. All the honor goes to G‑d. And what we are honored for are usually His gifts. Arrogance is antithetical to spirituality. Be grateful, but humble.

Wishing you much success on your spiritual journey, which always starts with the first step

 

Notes From Israel

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