This week, the Torah portion describes one of the most incredible episodes in world history: the splitting of the Red Sea and the many miracles that took place there. We also read about the beginning of the Jewish people's 40-year trek in the desert. When the Torah describes a particular segment of the journey, the verse reads, "v'lo nacham Elokim...," which literally means, "and G-d did not lead them..." However, in the Midrash, an alternative reading is given: "and God was not comforted." The Midrash explains that although the Jewish people were free and their enemies were punished, G-d still felt the pain that the Jewish people had experienced. G-d loves us so much that He was not "getting over it."
G-d demonstrates His love for us by remembering our good deeds for many years after we perform them. For instance, Jeremiah tells us that G-d says that He will save the Jewish people because of their devotion to Him in the desert 1500 years earlier.
We may often find it hard to conjure up feelings of love for G-d. Rabbi Akiva Eiger points out that there is a prayer that we say daily right before the Shema which declares how much G-d loves us. When we contemplate how much G-d cares about us, it is then much easier to have those same feelings for Him.
G-d really does love us more than we love ourselves!
Have a great Shabbos and and Tu B'shvat!
The story of the slavery of the Jewish people climaxes this week as they leave Egypt. Rabbeinu Bachya (mid-13th century - 1340; noted for his kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, into the study of the Torah) points out that there seems to have been an emphasis on Pharaoh and his palace. Why?
He explains that it is clear from the story that Pharaoh was most arrogant. When in his palace, he was at his "best." He needed to keep this attitude to maintain his position of preventing the Jewish people from leaving.
Rabbi Henoch Leibowitz points out that we see from this that when a person surrounds himself with external things that are too showy and frivolous, it can affect him, and it can even turn catastrophic, as was the case with Pharaoh.
This is a very timely message, as today in society so much is judged and based on material acquisitions. Nice and comfortable possessions are great, but we need to keep in mind not to let things go too far.
Have an enjoyable Shabbos!
In this week's parsha, Moshe told the Jewish people that G-d would redeem them from Egypt and give them the Torah. The Torah says that they were not "able to listen to Moshe because of the shortness of spirit and the harsh work."( loosely translated) This was part of the slavery by Pharaoh and the Egyptians: they did not want the Jews to contemplate lofty ideals and thoughts of redemption.
The Path of the Just, by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto (1707–1746), relates that this is one of life's greatest challenges. We are constantly busy and there are many demands on our time; thus, we are faced with the challenge of not taking the time to think. This allows us to stay comfortable with our behavior and our path in life.
Life is hectic and we have many responsibilities, but our Sages teach us that we need to spend just a few precious minutes daily, or at least from time to time, to stop and think!
Have a great Shabbos!
As we begin the story of the exodus from Mitzrayim (Egypt), we are introduced to Moshe (Moses). When he sought a mate, he went to a well, just as his ancestors had done; Eliezer, the servant of Avraham (Abraham), and Yaakov (Jacob) had met the future matriarchs at wells. The Midrash points out a stark contrast between Yaakov's arrival in the city of Charan and Moshe's appearance at the well in Midyan. Rochel (Rachel) was able to move about freely and no one bothered her, while the daughters of Yisro (Jethro) were not safe when they went out to the well. Commentaries explain that the difference was that Avraham had lived in Charan and his moral character left an indelible mark on the place for generations to come.
We see from this a valuable two-fold lesson. We often wonder what kind of impact we can make in the world, as often we don't have an audience or an "official" following. However, we must realize that people are affected by what they see. Our proper and ethical actions make a significant impression, particularly on those closest to us. We can also adversely affect those around us. Likewise, we are highly influenced by our environment, and when we have the opportunity to choose where and with whom to spend our time, we should do so wisely.
In short, each person must recognize that he/she is very important and that his/her actions make a difference in the world.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Naftali Karp
Every week Rabbi Karp sends out thoughts about the weekly Torah portion. Enjoy!