Beshalach

“Parsha and Purpose” – Beshalach 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“A Peek Into God’s ‘Private Study'”

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Parshat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17 -17:16

“A Peek Into God’s ‘Private Study’

This week’s Torah portion is filled with so many beautiful components; I’d like to focus on the “Manna”.

In the middle of the showering of the Manna, God tells Moshe:

“מלא העמר ממנו למשמרת לדרתיכם”

Take an omer’s worth of the Manna and put it, as the Talmud says, in an earthenware jar, to remember the heavenly bread that showered upon the Jewish people for 40 years. [Exodus 16:32]

God tells Aaron to do this and to place this earthenware jar of Manna in front of God as a remembrance for all generations. [Ibid., v. 33] 

As God commands Moshe and God places the Manna, eventually, in front of the Ark, “למשמרת” – for all generations. [Ibid., v. 34]

You see, God transforms nature for us. Normally, food develops from the ground and the heaven assists through the rains. But throughout the 40 years, it is the heavens that supply the food to the Jewish people and the ground that sustains the process through the covering of the Manna with the dew that’s found on the ground.

Rabbeinu Bachye speaks so beautifully about this by quoting a Mechilta in his commentary on this week’s Torah portion:

“כמה היו ישראל חביבין לפניו ששינה להם מעשה בראשית”

The Jewish people are so precious that God changed the way nature works, so that food didn’t come from the Earth, but came from the heavens, while the dew of the ground protects the food that comes from the heavens.

We remember that on every erev Shabbat in the desert, the Jewish people were showered with two portions, with two helpings, of this covered food, of this Manna. [Exodus 16:5]

And therefore, we start our Shabbat meals, our Friday night meal and our Shabbat morning or afternoon meal with Lechem Mishneh, two helpings of bread, two rolls. 

And these two loaves of bread are covered beneath and above at our Shabbat meals to remember the Manna experience.

Yet, the Manna which God commands us should be placed – as the Talmud tells us, in an earthenware jar for remembrance of the miracle – is not placed in the Beit HaMikdash where visitors can see it, but it is placed in the Kodesh Kodashim, in the Holy of Holies.

If the Manna is to be a testimony – which the Torah tells us multiple times is the reason for it – why not place it where the people are able to see it? 

Why not place it near the Menorah or the show bread, the Lechem Hapanim, or the Mizbayach? Why place it in the Kodesh Kodashim, which has traffic only once a year, on Yom Kippur?

I’d like to thank my son, Yoni, for helping me think this through.

You know that any family, when they make aliya, especially from the United States, has to downsize. And you take the things that are important; and the things that are precious ornaments: the suitcase that my father was given with his family to bring all of his materials from the DP camp to America; the sign that I placed in Central Park asking my wife to marry me. Precious ornaments that find themselves in my study in Jerusalem.

The Holy of Holies contained the Aron HaKodesh; the Cherubs – Keruvim, the Second Luchot; the shattered First Luchot; perhaps the Torah that Moshe wrote; the staff of Aaron, used to miraculously show the primacy role of Moshe and Aaron and the role of the Kohanim in service to God; the anointing oil used to anoint the Kings of Israel and the High Priests.

Essentially, these were the precious articles that represented the relationship between God and the Jewish people. And the Talmud in Yoma, and codified by the Rambam, says that many of these articles were hidden by King Yoshiyahu before the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash in the catacombs beneath the Temple. [Talmud, Yoma 52b; Hilchot Beit Habechira 4:1]

The Kodesh Kodashim is God’s “private study”. The ornaments in the Kodesh Kodashim are not functional ornaments; they are decor in God’s “private study” that accentuate the relationship.

God tells Aaron to place it there by the Ark – “למשמרת” – to highlight the relationship that exists between us and God.

It’s a relationship in the good times and the not so good times, like the shattered Luchot.

It’s a relationship that is meaningful because it’s always there. In relationships that are important, it’s not enough to sing about them; it’s not enough to preach them; it’s about engaging and always working on the relationship.

Manna must be presented and kept in order to remind us that relationships that are important, that wish to continue to affect our lives, need to be remembered and need to be worked on.

So as we celebrate this week, Shabbat Shira, as we celebrate the gift of the Manna, let us ask ourselves: how do we make sure in our lives that we work hard to assure that our relationship with God is not something that we just sing about, but something that we live to actualize?

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –“And when Israel saw the great hand that God had wielded against the Egyptians, the people feared God; they had faith in God and in His servant, Moses” (Exodus 14:31) Why does the heart of the Haggadah almost completely omit mention of Moses, …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Beshalach 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Adding Harmony to the Song: One People, Multiple Chords”

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“Adding Harmony to the Song: One People, Multiple Chords”

Parshat Beshalach, the parsha of the crossing of Yam Suf – the transformation of the Jewish people from a slave  nation to a people of destiny – a Torah section that has been made into several big picture feature films.

It is a Parsha of joy – Shabbat Shira of song.

And in one of the first verses of the Parsha, we’re told the following:

וַיַּסֵּב אלוקים אֶת הָעָם דֶּרֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּר יַם סוּף
And God led the people in a roundabout way through the wilderness, by Yam Suf. Exodus 13:18

וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
And the Israelites went up from the land of Egypt “chamushim”

The straightforward interpretation of the word חמושים is that the Israelites were armed with weapons.

But our Sages derive something else from the fact that the word “chamushim” has the same root as the word “chamesh”, meaning “five”. Midrash Mechilta d’Rabbi Yishmael, 13:18

They learn from this that only one out of every five Jews left Egypt –  just 20%.

Then the Midrash goes even further, teaching that it was actually just one of every 50 that left – only 2%!

Another opinion offers a third, even more distressing interpretation, that only one out of every 500 Jews, just .02%, opted to leave Egypt.

These numbers are as interesting as they are depressing.

Not every Jew was willing to leave the Egyptian exile. Indeed, not every Jew viewed life in Egypt as an exile. Exile is, as Rabbi Soloveitchik states, a subjective concept.

What an important message for us today, in a world where so many Jews do not share the same outlook regarding the destiny of the Jewish people.

We must not accept a reality like the one in Egypt, where so many Jews were prepared to opt out of their Judaism.

We have a sacred responsibility to engage all Jews and to make sure that every Jew realizes that they are part of the destiny of the Jewish people, regardless of where they live or the degree of their religious experience.

As Jews, we may all approach our Judaism differently.However – Unity does not require uniformity.

Our rabbis tell us that when the Jewish people crossed the Yam Suf, they crossed through 12 different paths/lanes. Rashi to Psalms 136:13

Even when we’re all on the same journey,

we must all find our own path.

As we celebrate Shabbat Shira this week, recalling in our Torah reading the joyous song sung by the Jewish people as they stood on the riverbank victorious and safe from harm, we mourn the thousands of Jews who never joined us on our freedom march from Egypt.

We take this opportunity to remember our challenge and obligation to reach out to the Jews in our time who no longer personally identify with our destiny as a people, and to engage with them with love and respect.

Let this parsha be a reminder that we are all part of a symphony, each of us with our own unique set of instruments and abilities, working together to contribute to a collective composition.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Beshalach (Exodus 13:17 – 17:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin            Efrat, Israel –– “And Moses brought the bones of Joseph with him, since [Joseph] had adjured the children of Israel to take an oath; [Joseph] had said, ‘God will surely remember you; bring up my bones with you from …

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Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17 – 17:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out [in prayer] to Me? Speak to the children of Israel and let them move forward’” (Exodus 14:15) Chapters 14 and 15 of the Book of Exodus are among the most …

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This week’s “Shabbat Shalom” has been dedicated by Sylvia and Avi Tuchman in honor of their grandchildren Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “This is my God ve-anveihu, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” (Exodus 15:2) What is the best way to give thanks to God? …

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