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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Beshalach

Parshat Beshalach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Beshalach                                                                Print Version
13th of Shevat, 5782 | January 15, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Tzvi Sytner
The Chinese Bamboo Tree

In the Far East, there's a tree called the Chinese bamboo tree. Now, when this tree is first planted, nothing happens for the first year. There's absolutely no sign of growth; not even a little hint. And the same is for the first four years. No growth. Nothing at all. But in the fifth year, something incredible happens.

The tree shoots up in just six weeks. And in fact, a Chinese bamboo tree can grow up to 90 feet. You can practically watch the tree grow. That's how fast it goes from nothing to something. So what took five years? Why was there no movement for so long? The reason is that for four years, the tree was spreading incredibly deep roots all the way down so that it could sustain its growth in the future.

Tu B’Shvat is right around the corner. And it is the holiday which celebrates the new year for trees. Now, I don't know about you, but if I had to pick a time of year to celebrate our trees, I would pick it the spring. Why is it middle of the cold winter?

Our Sages tell us why. Even though in the middle of the winter everything seems dead, the trees are bare and the frost is all over, the nutrients are making their way into the roots, preparing it for the spring. It's just like the bamboo tree, where beneath the surface, deep down, real growth is occurring. Perhaps we celebrate Tu B’shvat now too in order to teach us that even though things seem so lifeless, so depressed and so hopeless, we can't give up hope or faith, because it is growth during the darkest, coldest moments that allow us to flourish in the future.

This may also be why Tu B’Shvat falls out around the time Parshas Beshalach is read. It’s a Parsha in which we remember the Splitting of the Sea and how the Jewish people broke out in song with musical instruments as they crossed the sea. Think about it: musical instruments in the middle of the desert. Where in the world are there musical instruments in the middle of the desert? Chazal tell us that during the intense slavery of the Jewish people, in the midst of their suffering, the Jewish women believed in their hearts that the day would come when they would once again be free and they would even be celebrating. They didn't give up hope that Hashem would save them. Instead, they kept instruments for that big day. And when that day came, they broke out in song with their instruments.

Can you imagine? Could you imagine while still in Egypt, while in the middle of a painful, horrific suffering, while still living with all the unknowns, they planned for celebration? This is the lesson of Tu B’Shvat and it's a powerful lesson for life.

Sometimes, we painfully work hard and we wait for years without any signs of progress. Waiting to meet our spouse, waiting for our businesses to take off, waiting for our health, to get through a hard time, to get better. But our waiting may not be for nothing … because that day will come when suddenly everything changes. How do I know? Because if Hashem can create the world, then He can create change in your world. We have to keep our hope alive. Yes, it is possible to be living in a world of challenge, but to still have a hopeful vision. It's possible to imagine all the things that you're going to do when you're healthy, even while you're ill. It's possible to dream of that day when you'll have joy in your life, even if you feel sad right now. It's possible to envision your beautiful marriage even while you're currently single, because everything can change. Hashem can do anything.

Tu B’Shvat lends us a view of what is beneath the surface; it provides for us a vision that Hashem can make everything you hope for in life into a reality. Because He can.

Rabbi Joey Haber
The Most Famous Painting

What is the most famous painting in the world? The answer: the Mona Lisa. Now, I remember the first time seeing a picture of the Mona Lisa and thinking to myself, “How can this be the best painting in the world? She’s not even smiling. What's so special?” But I know I'm wrong because the whole world knows this is the greatest painting for a reason: the greatest painter of all time created it and he knew what he is doing. So instead of me doubting that it’s the greatest painting, maybe I’m looking at it in the wrong way? Maybe I don't know how to see the great quality of the artistic beauty?

If on the first day I saw it, I didn't get it, that's my problem. That's my fault. Obviously, something about the painting is spectacular. I don't know why yet. I need to learn the language of painting. I need to learn art. At some point, I’ll realize it's not the painting's problem, and it's definitely not the painter's problem. It's the viewer's problem.

All of us in this world were created by the greatest artist of all time. You were created by G-d. Hashem made you. If you can’t see that about yourself, maybe you don't know how to view yourself yet. Maybe you don't know how to understand who you are. At the end of the day, if the greatest creator created you, there's a reason why he made you short or with your nose, those ears, that hair, that intelligence. There's a reason Hashem made you that way. Maybe you don't know how to view the greatest painting yet. Maybe you need to learn how to view art. But once you understand it fully and you become cultured to its depth, you'll realize the greatness and the beauty in the art that is you.

Rabbi Shlomo Horwitz
Take My Car

The Schlesinger family from Alon Shvut was up in northern Israel for a vacation. Their single son, Elisha, 28 years old, was driving up to be with them for Shabbos. Now, suddenly, he needed to get gas for his car, but he kept missing the gas stations as he sped towards the north of Israel. Finally, after passing five gas stations, he pulled in to refuel, taking a quick look at his watch. It was three hours before Shabbos, and he was now about an hour from where his parents were staying. So the timing was great.

Suddenly, at the gas station, he noticed a woman with children, and she was very, very upset. Walking up to her, he asked calmly, “Is everything alright? Can I help you?” “I accidentally filled my car with diesel fuel instead of regular fuel. I really messed up my car and it won't start.” There was no way to remove the wrong fuel; it needed professional attention and it wasn’t drivable and fixable on a Friday just hours before Shabbos. “Where were you driving?” Elisha asked the woman. “Alei Zahav in the Shomron,” she said, anxiety filling her voice. Elisha knew exactly where that was. That was a three hour trip. And there was only three hours left until Shabbos. She clearly needed to get there. But how?

Elisha didn’t think twice. He took out his car keys, held them out to her and said, “Here, take them. Start driving to Alei Zahav, and here's my cell phone number. Let's be in touch after Shabbos, and we’ll figure out how to get the car back to me. The woman looked at Elisha. “Are you serious?” A young man who she doesn't even know is giving her his car. She thanked him profusely and took off for Alei Zahav. In the meantime, Elisha called his father and explained the situation. His father promptly came to pick him up and thank G-d, everybody made it home in time for Shabbos. On Sunday, the woman returned with the car. She met Elisha’s mother and told her how amazed she was with Elisha’s kindness on Friday. What present can I give him?
The mother replied to this lady, “He doesn’t need any presents; he needs a wife.” The woman came home, wrote this story, shared it with her friends and added that Elisha, this wonderful young man, is searching for a wife. Suddenly, ideas came pouring in. One of the very first ones was a young woman named Naomi. And with Hashem’s help, Naomi and Elisha got married. How do I know this? Because I heard this story from the Mesader Kiddushin, the rabbi who married the couple, Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn
The Three Guests

Ari Hirsch, founder of The Jewish Vues, a Brooklyn-based newspaper, every once in a while, takes fifty people from the public and asks them the same question. He writes to them or emails them and says, “I’m going to ask you the same question I’m asking forty-nine other people. And then in a few weeks, I'm going to print your answer in our paper.”

Three years ago, he called me and said, “Rabbi Krohn, can I ask you the same question I am going to ask forty-nine others?” As you consider the following, think of what you would say too. “If you could invite any three people to your house for dinner – any three people from all history until today – who would they be?” Think about it for a moment. Some people whom I’ve personally asked this question to respond, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, or Rachel Imeinu or Sarah Schneirer. (One man cleverly mentioned the two enemies in the story of Kamtza and bar Kamtza and Aharon Ha’Kohen).

My response was Dovid Hamelech because he went through so much in his life. Anything that you have any question about in life, Dovid Hamelech could provide insight and comfort to. Secondly, I would invite Rashi because Rashi was the most kind and sympathetic person, and he knew all the Rashi’s. Anything in Torah you’d want to know, Rashi would be the address. My third guest would be Rav Chaim Ozer Grodensky zt”l. I’ve always felt that Rav Chaim Ozer was the grandfather of Klal Yisroel, considering his far-reaching effect and efforts on behalf of the Jewish world throughout his life. Those were my three.

A few weeks later, Ari called me back and said, “Rabbi, are you going to get the paper this week? We printed your answer.” But before anything, I had one question I wanted to ask. “Ari,” I said, “tell me, who gave the most profound answer?” I was shocked at what he told me next.

“Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l,” he said.

“You went to Rav Dovid?” I couldn’t believe he had gone to the Rosh Yeshiva for this question. “I was walking one day and I decided to ask him. You know what he told me?” I waited in eager anticipation of what he was about to say.
“I’d invite three poor people.”

Most of us, if given this opportunity would think, “Of all the great people who have lived in the world, whom would I want to meet the most? Who would I want to spend a few hours with? The focus, truthfully, is on us and what we can get out of it. But to think of what we can give instead of what we can get … that’s how great people see life.

An eye-opening response given from the heart. “I’d invite three poor people.” What sweet words.

Rabbi Shlomo Farhi
No Question

I know of a family who unfortunately suffered a very deep, personal tragedy: the loss of their father at a young age. Hearing of this news, I walked into the shiva home and took a seat, taking in the heartfelt pain this family was experiencing. Just moments later, one of the sons approached me. He looked as if he had something important to tell me. “What are you going to say about this one, Rabbi?” I was shocked, not knowing what to say. “My father died; he was a young man and big tzaddik. Everyone loved him. Explain this one to me…? You got an answer to this one?” In every way, I was not expecting this, but I had no choice but to respond.

In as gentle a tone as I could, I said, “I can’t answer your question.” “Why?” he said, visibly disturbed. “Because you're not asking a question.”

Let’s think about this. Let’s say I had the answer. The answer was Douglas Adams, 42. That was the meaning of the universe. I tapped into what G-d had in mind and knew the real reason why this happened. Will the boy feel any better? No. The boy was expressing pain, and his pain demanded to be felt. His pain made him act this way. He was hurting. At this particular moment, he wasn’t really asking why G-d did this? He was rather saying, beneath his anger, “I feel terrible. I feel lost. I don't want to feel like this.” An intellectual answer does not solve an emotional disturbance. And therefore, my response – “I’m sorry … I don't have an answer for your question.” He wasn’t asking a question. His words were a statement of pain. Knowing this difference guides us to providing the right responses at the right times to people who are struggling with something. Before responding, we must know what is being asked.

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