Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:  Beshelach

January 19, 2019  |  13/Shevat/5779

Parsha Point

by Rabbi Ron Jawary
Seeing the Divine in Everything
One of the recurring themes of the Torah is the importance of seeing the Divine in everyday events. This week, the Torah teaches us about the splitting of the sea for the Jewish people. In the same Torah portion, the Torah discusses a person’s sustenance (Exodus, 16:35) and health (ibid, 15:26).
We tend to take so many things in life for granted, so the Torah places these topics in the same portion to teach us that if we look hard enough at the common occurrences in our lives, we will see the Divine in them. The most mundane event can become the equivalent to the splitting of the sea.
In fact, King David teaches us that by looking into ourselves, we can see the hand of God.
The Rabbis were sensitive to this and instituted a blessing that we say every time we use the bathroom: “Blessed are You, the Eternal, Who heals all flesh and does wondrous acts.” What this blessing is stating is that the Almighty created what no human can: a pump that can work for 120 years without a break, a filter that never needs replacing, and a computer that orchestrates billions of cells in our body and rarely crashes.
If we see the Divine in these seemingly mundane things, we will realize that there is really nothing mundane in the world and every day will become as wondrous as the day the sea split. Interestingly, the morning prayer includes the section of the splitting of the sea so that we can wake up and start our day with a sense of awe and gratitude.

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Mystical Tour

by Rabbi Max Weiman
What do I do?
From a practical, physical standpoint, this week’s Torah portion begins with something that’s hard to understand. The Almighty takes the Jewish people out from hundreds of years of slavery, leads them a few days into the wilderness, and then has the Egyptians come to take them back.
It doesn’t seem to make sense: If they just left, why is God putting them in jeopardy again?!
Spiritual vs. Physical
Sometimes the spiritual viewpoint is the opposite of the physical viewpoint. One mistaken assumption about life is that things should always be pleasant and comfortable. When they are not pleasant and comfortable, we say there’s a problem: Why is God doing this to me? Why me?
The truth is that if God wanted our lives to be pleasant and comfortable, He wouldn’t have put us into this world. If you lie in bed you are comfortable, but if you do it too long your muscles begin to atrophy. Effort and struggle will increase your muscle strength.
The message is that life is not meant to be easy. Life is meant to be for growth. In order to grow, we need struggles. We need a challenge.
The nation of Israel needed that particular challenge at that particular time. It was designed and crafted for their spiritual growth.
What Do I Do?
The Israelites were in a predicament. On one side was the Sea of Reeds; on the other was the well-equipped Egyptian army. What should they do? Some said fight. Some said pray. Some said jump into the sea. Some said surrender.
Wouldn’t you think the “biblical” answer is to pray? Yet God says to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them to journey forth.” (Exodus 14:15)
It seems that each group, everyone was suggesting the thing most comfortable with their personality or general pattern of behavior. Someone who is always ready to fight thinks that’s the way to resolve things. Someone who always prays thinks that’s the way to resolve things. As my friend Rabbi Mordechai Rottman likes to say, “When you’re a hammer, you think everything’s a nail.”
In order to know exactly what God wants from you, you have to ask the question honestly. You have to be multi-talented, at various times ready to fight, negotiate, or flee.

Who Am I?
God created each and every one of us with amazing gifts and abilities. Each human being is like an expensive jewel waiting to be honed to perfection. Our lives take twists and turns, but always leave room for our true talents to emerge. We are always guided from on high.
But for a natural-born surgeon, surgery is not the greatest challenge. The greatest challenge may be in humility. And here is life’s glorious dichotomy: What comes easy and natural is what we should spend our life doing. But our challenges and true spiritual growth come from what we find difficult.
A True Torah Personality
When we study the great Torah personalities, we find a variety of great people. Each one had a unique way of dealing with life and relating to the Infinite. Sometimes a person may wonder, “I can try to mold myself to be like so many holy people. Which one is the best or truest Torah personality?”
This question was posed to one of the great sages of the past generation: “What is the true Torah personality?” To which he responded, “Whichever one the situation in front of you demands.”
Are You Uncomfortable?
Abraham achieved greatness doing acts of kindness, but his real change and growth came from his challenge with the binding of Isaac, an act that was the opposite of his character trait of kindness.
Similarly, we need to constantly focus on what our accomplishment and contribution to the world can be, based on our talents and abilities. Yet at the same time, we need to be ready at any moment to abandon what comes easy when the time and opportunity arises and we’re faced with a situation that requires the opposite character.
We need to be willing to do what is uncomfortable.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1)  What do I value about my personality? Is that something that comes easy to me?
2)  When was the last time I did something that was uncomfortable, because it was the right thing to do?
3)  Is there anything I’m avoiding that is the right thing to do, because it makes me uncomfortable?

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Family Parsha

Family Trees:  A Tu B’shvat Story for Kids
We can learn a lot from trees.  One Thing is Patience.
Tu B’shvat is the day we celebrate one of God’s most special creations — the tree — and all of the good we get from them. There is a custom to eat many different types of fruit on this day while thinking about and appreciating where they came from. We can learn a lot from trees. One thing is patience. A tree, which starts from a tiny seedling, takes many years before it grows tall and produces its delicious fruit. So too, we should try to be patient and know that all good things will eventually ‘bear fruit’ if we’re willing to wait.
In our story, a young girl discovers there’s much more to trees than branches and leaves.
The old man watched with a satisfied smile as the cars drove in one by one to the far side of the apple orchard. He loved this time of year when the apples were hanging red and heavy on their branches, waiting to be picked, eaten and enjoyed, and when the folks came from miles around for their yearly outing.
He saw a green SUV, and watched as parents, kids, packages, bags, and a baby stroller came tumbling out. One of the kids, a girl of around 11, caught his eye, not because of her enthusiasm but rather, her extreme lack of it.
“Apple picking. Apple picking. Every year, boring apple picking,” Nancy huffed. “What’s wrong with the apples we buy in the store? They’re perfectly good. Why do we have to make this big trip every year for a few dumb apples?”
“Nancy, can you grab this bag please? Be careful, it has a thermos in it,” said her mom.
Mrs. Krieger felt bad that her daughter was feeling so impatient and having such a rough time of it today. She had such fond memories of apple picking in this very same orchard back when she was a girl and hoped to share it with her kids. But Nancy wanted no part of it.
It was taking forever for her parents to get everything organized, so Nancy started wandering around the orchard a little. She just wanted to finish fast and go home to join her friends, who were at the new ice cream shop that had just opened. Free ice cream as much as you can eat, all day, and here she was, stuck surrounded by these ridiculous apples.
As she was walking, suddenly she came upon a sight that looked strange to her. She went over to take a closer look.
The old man, the orchard owner, was bending down over a flat of tiny apple-tree seedlings, picking up each one lovingly and placing it gently into neatly spaced holes already dug into the ground. Nancy snorted out loud as she watched him tamp the dirt around each sapling, like they were his babies or something. The man looked up at her and smiled.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” he said.
“Maybe,” replied Nancy. “But how long will it be until they’re big enough to make apples?”
“Oh, to really produce? About 20 years, maybe more.”
“Twenty years! Then what are you bothering for? Don’t get offended mister, but let’s face it, at your age,” she paused as she took in his wrinkled face, “it doesn’t really look like you’ll be around to enjoy them, you know?”
The man smiled warmly again. “Right you are about that, young lady. Nothing lasts forever, does it. Even so, all these apples here that everyone is picking and enjoying were planted by my father and grandfather. They cared enough back then to plant for the future. And look — with a little patience, the future came quick enough, didn’t it. I hope these here saplings will provide lots of good fruit for my kids and grandkids, and whoever else might want to come and enjoy them.”
Nancy was speechless. Nothing in her eleven years of life had prepared her (not counting the care and love of her parents, which she hadn’t yet realized was a gift and not a given) for such
a patient and unselfish outlook on life.
“Here, how’d you like to plant one, young lady?” the man said as he offered her one of the saplings. “Maybe one day you’ll come back here and your children can pick apples from ‘your’ tree.”
Nancy took it and felt surprisingly good as she placed it into the ground.
“Oh, Nancy, there you are,” said her mom, walking over. “I know you’re in a rush to get home, so we’ll try to hurry things as much as we can.”
“No, mom, it’s okay,” smiled the girl as she glanced at the old man, still patiently planting for the future, “I’m really happy we’re spending this time together. There’s no rush, after all. Don’t all good things and good times, take time — to bear fruit?”
Discussion Questions:
Ages 3-5
How did Nancy feel at first about the apple-picking trip?
Ages 6-9
What, if anything, do you think a person gains by being patient?
Ages 10 and up
Do you think there is a connection between patience and our degree of faith in God?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“Learn character from trees, values from roots and change from leaves”  — T. Hameed

JOKE OF THE WEEK

Little Moishie Gross has worn glasses since the age of three. When he was in the first grade, he came home one day very distressed. Wanting to find out what was the matter his mother asked, “Moishie, what happened today to upset
you so?”
Moishie answered, “It’s not fair that I’m not allowed to go to the library.”
Moishie’s mother became very concerned and asked, “Why aren’t you allowed to go to the library?”
With a tearful reply he said, “Because, in order to go to the library, you have to have super-vision, and I wear glasses!”

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Shabbat Shalom

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