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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Beshalach

Parshat Beshalach

Compiled and Edited by Torah Time

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Beshalach 13th of Shevat, 5776 | January 23, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Dovid Goldwa


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Beshalach
13th of Shevat, 5776 | January 23, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser
Travels of a Kallah

מי כמכה באלם ד'... נורא תהלת עשה פלא

Who is like You among the heavenly powers, Hashem… awesome for praise, performer of wonders (Shemos 15:11)

As a young girl named Rena made her way into a van in Israel, she took a seat in the back. She was a poor kallah (bride) who could not afford her own wedding gown and needed to resort to procuring one from a free-loan gemach organization. Settling herself in a seat, she anticipated a two-hour drive ahead until she reached her destination. Up front was seated a Rabbi who was wearing earphones and listening to a lecture, attempting to block out any disturbing noises. While the van continued along, a few more people boarded and the driver turned on the radio.

To Rena’s dissatisfaction, the radio was playing a song of gross decadence that no Jewish girl should ever have to hear. As she unwillingly listened to the disturbing words, she eventually could no longer take it. Raising her voice, she kindly said, “Excuse me driver, but could you by any chance turn the music off?” Turning around in his seat, the driver stared straight at her and replied, “No. There are other people here that enjoy it and I’m going to leave it on. They are also paying a fare.” Unable to do anything more about the situation, Rena remained silent as the van continued to move along. As a couple more people soon joined as passengers, the music increased in volume.

It was becoming impossible for Rena to bear; she couldn’t stand it. Again, she kindly pleaded, “Sir, I am nicely asking you, please turn it off.” And again he turned around and said, “I am sorry, but you are not the only passenger in this van. Frankly, you are not going to overrule everyone else here. We are going to listen to it because we enjoy it.” And with that, he turned back around to face the road.

“Fine,” said Rena, “you don’t have to turn it off. But please let me out of the van here.” Swiveling back in his seat a third time, the driver said, “I want you to know that I will not give you back your money.” “I didn’t ask for my money back,” replied Rena, “just please let me off.” As Rena was about to descend from the car, the Rabbi sitting in the front seat took note of all the commotion. “Wait, wait! What’s going on?” The Rabbi as well began to beg the driver to turn off the music, but it was to no avail. The driver was firmly adamant that matters run as he wishes. With no other resort remaining, the drive pulled off to the side and let Rena off in a lonely, deserted area.

Later that day, the Rabbi was on his way back from running his errands. Walking down the street, he was astonished to see right before him Rena, the very girl who had so bravely stood by her opinion earlier that day. Running over to Rena, he asked her if she was okay. “I am perfectly fine,” she replied. “In fact, I am beaming with joy. Let me tell you what happened; you won’t believe it:

…I took a seat next to an elderly woman… introducing herself as Faige.

After I was let off the van, I had to wait for only ten minutes until another car came along and picked me up. As I made my way to the back of the car, I took a seat next to an elderly woman. She was very kind and jolly, introducing herself as Faige. She asked for my name and where I was headed. I told her that my name was Rena and explained that I was heading to a gemach organization because I am a poor bride in need of a wedding gown. This organization provides brides with used but nice gowns and I was thrilled I would be able to get one. I then asked Faige where she was going. She told me the following:

“Right now I am on my way to the gravesite of R’ Meir Baal HaNeis. It is his yaartzeit today, the anniversary day of his passing, and every year I go there. The reason I have this custom is because of my father. I grew up in one of the poorest families in Yerushalayim. My family was so impoverished that we could barely afford food for each day, let alone for Shabbos and Yom Tov. Matters continued to decline until one day, in a cry of desperation, my father went to the grave of R’ Meir Baal HaNeis and prayed his heart out. By the time he returned home, he was clearly a different person. Something unexplainable had changed. From that day onwards, money began to flow into our house. There was more money and more money. My father started making successful business deals and we eventually became one of the wealthiest families in Yerushalayim.

My father in due time passed away, but he left two requests in his will. Every year on the yaartzeit of R’ Meir Baal HaNeis, I am to go pray next to R’ Meir’s grave. Secondly, on the day of his yaartzeit, I am supposed to find a poor kallah and pay for her wedding expenses in addition to committing to support her and her husband for their entire first year of marriage. Rena, my dear kallah, you will not have to look for any free-loan gemach. You will not have to borrow any dress. I will provide you with a beautiful new wedding dress and all the expenses for your first year of marriage will be taken care of.”

All that Hashem requests of us is to do our part. When we remain steadfast in our resolve to live by our Jewish values and ideals, Hashem will respond in kind with abundant blessing. What minutes ago seemed bleak and dismal can turn around for the better right before our eyes, leaving us materially and emotionally enriched in ways we never imagined.

Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff
Beautifying our Mitzvos

In Parshas Beshalach, we read about the Jewish people jubilantly praising Hashem upon miraculously crossing the Red Sea. Amid the many poetic stanzas which compose Az Yashir, the Song of the Sea, it says, “זה קלי ואנוהו אלקי אבי וארוממנהו” –“This is my G-d and I will beautify Him; the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.”

The Gemara (Shabbos 133b) states that this Pasuk teaches the concept of hiddur mitzvah, beautification of mitzvos. We are to beautify mitzvos by building a nice Sukkah, purchasing an exquisite Lulav and elegantly writing a Sefer Torah pleasing to the eye. Our mitzvah performance is to be filled with excitement, inspiration and beauty. We are not to feel encumbered and burdened and in need to simply “fulfill our obligation.”

Along these lines, Devorah the prophetess, whom we read about in this week’s Haftorah, is referred to as “Eishes Lapidos,” the wife of torches. Chazal accredit this complimentary title to her efforts in fashioning the wicks of the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash. She would not merely prepare wicks that would decently burn; she arranged thick wicks which would beautifully illuminate the Beis Hamikdash as befitting the dwelling of the Divine Presence. Devorah did not look to simply discharge her role; she undertook it with dedicated zeal and hiddur mitzvah.

The Sfas Emes once told his granddaughter to bring his overcoat to his wife to fix the buttons. As the granddaughter took the coat, she thought to herself, “I have watched my grandmother cross-stitch before; this is an excellent opportunity for me to practice!” Quickly gathering together some yarn and a needle, she began to get to work. After completing the job, she returned the coat to her grandfather. “You didn’t give it to your bubby (grandmother), did you?” questioned the Sfas Emes. “You did it yourself.” “How did you know?” astounded the granddaughter. “I have been watching bubby for years and I know how she exactly makes the stitches!”

“I knew,” replied the Sfas Emes, “because my side pocket was ripped. When bubby fixes a button, she checks the whole coat to make sure there is nothing else which needs repairing. If the side pocket still remains unfixed, she must not have done it.”

That is an Eishes Lapidos and prime example of someone looking to do more than asked. The individual who wishes to reach excellence and hiddur mitzvah will go beyond expectations and bare minimum requirements. Striving to achieve more than mediocrity, they will enthusiastically pursue perfection to their best ability.

The question which remains, however, is why we derive the principle of hiddur mitzvah specifically from Az Yashir? Why not use Avraham Avinu’s unmitigated enthusiasm and dedication when sacrificing his beloved son Yitzchak or when giving himself a bris milah at the elderly age of ninety-nine as paradigm examples? In these scenarios, Avraham certainly beckoned to the call of Hashem with utmost passion and loyalty and rose above the norm?

“This is my G-d and I will beautify Him...”

The answer is that this Pasuk in Az Yashir conveys a very important lesson necessary to bear in mind when serving Hashem. There are two categories of Jews: those who have arrived at Torah observance by choice and those through birth. In the Torah’s vernacular, we could distinguish between those Jews who feel “זה קלי ואנוהו” –“This is my G-d and I will beautify Him,” and those who feel “אלקי אבי וארוממנהו” –“He is the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.”

The former category speaks of one who did not grow up in a Torah home and environment and was not exposed from a young age to mitzvah performance. Nevertheless, such a person deserves tremendous credit and is at a certain advantage. Coming close to Judaism later in life, mundane life excites and inspires him. He views every opportunity to daven as a gift and each Shabbos as a special day of elevated spirituality. With Torah being a fresh and new part of life, he feels a personal closeness to Hashem and eagerly strives to beautify his mitzvah performance to the utmost. In short, he lives by the motto, “This is my G-d and I will beautify Him.”

On the other hand, the latter category refers to one who has a past history and background of Torah observance. Such a Jew can clearly point to his religiously observant parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles. His mother and father have shaped and taught him Torah values ever since his first waking moment on earth. As part of a long chain of Torah traditions and ideals, he can proudly declare, “אלקי אבי וארוממנהו” –“Hashem is the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.”

However, for both of these Jews there exist formidable challenges. For the individual who has drawn near to Judaism, he must work to build a foundation for himself and ground himself. With earnestness, he must begin a new way of life and develop new perspectives. Conversely, the individual who has for years been connected to his rich Torah heritage faces the challenge of making each day inspirationally new and exciting. He must strive to view each prayer and each Shabbos as a unique opportunity and avoid falling into a robotic rut.

While these hurdles can most definitely be surmounted, it requires much concentrated time and effort to do so. But it is well worth every ounce of exertion. And that is because success in these respective areas will bring about hiddur mitzvah. When the Jew who takes new strides in a Torah way of life grows to appreciate that he is part of an eternal heritage, his mitzvah observance will become that much more enhanced. Davening and wearing Tefillin will no longer be viewed as an isolated act he performs; he will understand it to be contextualized as part of what all previous generations have done. He connects to his great-grandfather’s devotion and recognizes that the Siddur he prays from is the same Siddur his ancestor prayed from centuries ago. His davening now takes on an exalted level of hiddur mitzvah, full of appreciation and meaning.

The same is true of the Jew who has only known a life of Torah and mitzvos since his youth. When he is able to infuse his daily activities with rich meaning and importance, what would be an ordinary Shabbos experience becomes a hallowed one. He enriches his overall life and individual mitzvah performance with hiddur.

This is what this Pasuk comes to teach us. “זה קלי ואנוהו אלקי אבי וארוממנהו” –“This is my G-d and I will beautify Him; the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him.” When a Jew is able to appreciate his glorious history and simultaneously feel excitement over a mitzvah, hiddur mitzvah results. Admiration of one’s beautiful Torah heritage combined with invigorated enthusiasm at the opportunity to carry out a mitzvah yields a superb display of hiddur mitzvah.

This is precisely what the Jewish people experienced as they crossed the Yam Suf. At the advent of such a momentous event, both aspects merged. As Chazal teach, even the simplest maidservant reached higher spiritual plateaus than the great prophet Yechezkel at the Splitting of the Sea. Feeling a unique relationship with Hashem, she proclaimed, “זה קלי ואנוהו” –“This is my G-d and I will beautify Him.” It was this sublime acknowledgment that directly led to the recognition that my G-d is the same as my father’s and grandfather’s G-d and I will exalt Him. Fusing these two aspects together is what forms hiddur mitzvah.

As we awaken each morning to our wonderful Torah heritage, we ought to remember what special opportunity awaits us. Excitedly embracing our unique relationship with Hashem and connection to our ancestors of past generations, we can look forward to a day filled with beautiful mitzvos.

Rebbetzin Frumah Altusky
Buying a Miracle

אל תיראו התיצבו וראו את ישועת ד

Do not be afraid; stand and see the salvation of Hashem (Shemos 14:13)

As a little eight-year old girl heard her parents crying behind their bedroom door, she bent her ear over to listen in. “What should we do for our little boy? He’s dying and nobody can help him; he needs a miracle to save him. We have no money to afford a professional doctor and nobody else can do the job.” Their son had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was in need of desperate life-saving surgery. But all options looked hopeless.

Hearing of her parent’s and brother’s anguish, the little girl ran to her room and opened her drawer. She was only eight years old, but she had a pouch where she had saved up some money: $1.79. Running to the local drugstore, she stood in front of the window. Seeing a young girl in front, the owner of the store inquired, “Where’s your mommy?” “I’ll wait,” she said. “Where’s your mommy?” the man asked again. “I’ll wait!” she repeated. And so the owner let her wait.

“I came to buy a miracle,” she said.

After standing on her feet for some time, she started to shake her pouch. The owner, standing next to his brother who was visiting, caught attention of the little girl’s behavior. Turning to her, he quietly asked, “What can I help you with?” “I came to buy a miracle,” she said. “I’m sorry,” the owner tried to explain, “but we don’t sell miracles in a drugstore.” “But my brother needs a miracle to get better!” the little girl persisted. “Well,” the man sighed, “I think you’ll have to go somewhere else because this is not the right place.”

“Just one minute,” said the owner’s brother taking note of the conversation. “What’s the problem with your little brother that you want to buy a miracle?” “He’s dying because something is growing in his head. If a doctor doesn’t remove it, he will not survive. I heard my parents crying behind the door. They don’t know that I heard, but I came here because I have $1.79 saved up. I could pay for something; maybe I could help save my brother!” Looking down at the little girl, the owner’s brother asked, “Do you want to take me to your house and let me talk to your parents?” “You’ll really come?” the girl said as a smile began to form at the corners of her mouth. “You’re the miracle?” “I don’t know, “he replied, “but let me see.”

He was an eminent brain surgeon visiting his brother. Entering the house and discussing the matter with the parents, he consented to perform major surgery. Diligently attending to the boy, he was successful in removing the tumor and giving the boy another chance at life.

Unable to thank the doctor enough, the parents were elated to no ends. When it came to paying for the surgery, the parents said, “What can we tell you? You saved our son. How much do we owe you? Even if it takes a lifetime, we will pay whatever it takes.” “Don’t worry,” the doctor said, “it was already paid for.” “Already paid for? What do you mean?” astounded the parents. “Yes, it was already paid for –it cost $1.79.”

Our children are the biggest blessing we have. We may often times fail to appreciate just how special they are, but indeed we all certainly would do the world for them in our unbounded love. And sometimes, they show us that they too are willing to do the world for us. With all their heart, they take all that they have and literally save another life. And how much does it cost? Cheaper than you ever would have thought: $1.79.

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