Friday, January 18, 2019

Dvar Torah - Beshalach - Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

Dear Friends

This week we are privileged to read the portion of Beshalach. The Shabbos in which beshalach is read is called Shabbos Shira (praise/song). The reason why this portion is so special, that we name it a name, although we don't find that with any other portion. Usually a portion is named after an individual or a word in the beginning of the portion. There are four special historic events, and gifts we received from Hashem, that are mentioned in this portion: Splitting of the sea, the Manna which came down from heaven daily, the holy Shabbos, and the war with Amolek. All and each of the above warrant a separate praise to Hashem. It is for this reason, says Reb Avrom Yaakov of Sadigura, that this Shabbos is called Shabbos Shira.

We recite the Shira daily, during shachris (morning prayers). The Beis Ahron writes that the shiras hayam includes everything one needs. One can find salvation for all problems, spiritual or material, if one recites Oz Yoshir (shiras hayam) with proper concentration.

Many commentaries ask, why is it that Jews did not say Shira only after they crossed the sea ? They had witnessed so many miracles until then, why didn’t they say shira on the ten plagues or on the exodus ? The holy Kabbalist Reb Chaim Vital answers, that the Jews had been subject earlier to such a cruel decree of throwing infants into the river, they could not say praise or sing until they saw revenge for that specific decree. Now the Egyptians were punished measure for measure, and drowned in water, they were finally able to say shira wholeheartedly.

In Likutei Ritzba gives a slightly different approach. Moshe wanted to recite the Shira with the entire nation, as it is written in mishlei 14/28 birov am hadras melech - the greater the crowd, the more glory for the king. Up until now, despite the great excitement and appreciation for all the great miracles, there was still fear of the agressor. Even a slave that manages to escape is not fully relaxed until he knows his master can never recapture him again. Now when they witnessed with their own eyes how the Egyptian oppressors were dead at the sea side, they were able to sing shira to Hashem all together with glory.

As it is the week we read about the tremendous miracles, may Hashem grant us all the salvation that Klal Yisroel needs and each individuals needs, whether it is Parnosoh or Shiduchim or strengthening the taste of Shabbos and/or erasing Amolek from within, and of course from outside, speedily.

Gut Shabbos

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Dvar Torah - Voeiro - Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin




This week we are privileged to read the portion of Voeiro. In the end of last weeks portion, Moshe complained to Hashem, why he sent him on this mission, for since he came to Pharaoh the situation went from bad to worse.  The portion begins with Hashem rebuking Moshe for complaining. Later Hashem reaffirms that he will take the Jewish nation out of Egypt and He will bring them to the land, which He promised to their forefathers. We learn about the first seven plagues, brought upon the Egyptians, which was the beginning of the redemption of klal Yisroel (the Jewish nation). Before each plague there was a warning period whereby Moshe informed Pharoh about the coming plague, giving him the chance to release the jews from Egypt, and avoid the plague. Hashem informed Moshe that Pharaoh will be stubborn and he won’t send the Jewish nation out of Egypt.

The beginning of the portion is rather difficult to understand. Here Moshe left Midyan and came back to Egypt, risking his life, only to fulfill the request of G-d. He goes to Pharaoh, who considered Moshe to be a convicted felon. He warns him that he must send his brothers and sisters, the Jewish nation out of Egypt, and not only was his request not granted and in his eyes, his mission was a total failure, things got "worse" for the Jews. What's so terrible about Moshe's complaint ? Doesn't it sound like legitimate complaint from someone who was deeply concerned with the living conditions of his brethren.

The Chassidic commentaries and the Baalei Musar say a very similar concept. One needs to know that nothing Hashem does is "bad". If we see somethings that look bad it's because we lack clear vision we lack proper insight into what's taking place. The rebuke was not for requesting better conditions, that's acceptable. The rebuke was to the wording of Lomo hareioiso - why did you make it worse ( bad). Everything Hashem does is for the good, in fact the reason they were freed earlier after 210 years instead of 400 years), was because of the greater difficulty that made up for the remaining years.

A farmer's child woke up early every morning even before the sun would rise. He would look around as the sun was rising and wonder on the opposite side of the farm there was a house with gold Windows. He would marvel every morning at that home wondering who lived there. One day he decided he's gonna head out in that direction and although it's far he's determined to see that house. He heads west for hours, and it's nearing sunset and he just doesn't seem to find the house with the gold Windows, instead he sees an old broken house. As it was getting late, he knocked on the door and a little child opened the door and he asked him, maybe you know where the house with gold Windows are ? Sure, said the young child come on to the porch and look in the direction you came from. As he looks in the direction of his farm, he sees the gold Windows are by his farm. What we see is what we want to see, and from where we approach what we are looking at.

A lecturer in a rehab center once demonstrated to his patients the danger that overconsumption of alcohol can cause. He took a worm and put it into a cup of whisky and in seconds the worm became crumbs. The crowd was amazed, some wanted to see the demo again. Then the presenter asked the attendees, what conclusion do you draw from what you saw ? One of the attendees got up and said that he gets it, the conclusion he drew was that people who drink a lot of alcohol don't have bugs/worms in their stomach. No one got the simple message, that overconsumption of alcohol can tear the body apart. Because everyone sees what they want to see. If one wants to see good, one can see good in the midst of misery, G-d forbid. If one doesn't focus on seeing the good, they will never appreciate it.

This is the lesson for us, of course we are not on the level of Moshe, but the Torah writes this so that we should learn to program ourselves to see good in everything. May Hashem grant us good that's easy to comprehend!
Gut Shabbos!