The Weekly Share – 13 Shevat

The Weekly Share – 13 Shevat

Food For the Soul

Tu Bishvat

The 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar—celebrated this year on Monday, January 17, 2022—is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. Commonly known as Tu Bishvat, this day marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

We mark the 15th of Shevat by eating fruit, particularly from the kinds that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The blessing on fruit:

Ba-ruch atah Ado-nai, Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam, borei pri ha-etz. [Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.]

If tasting a fruit for the first time in its season, recite the Shehecheyanu blessing before saying the fruit blessing:

Ba-ruch a-tah Ado-nai, Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam, she-heche-ya-nu ve-ki-ye-ma-nu ve-higi-a-nu liz-man ha-zeh. [Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.]

“About 500 years ago,” wrote Rabbi David Aaron, “the Kabbalists revealed the deeper meaning of Tu B’Shvat. They taught that Tu B’Shvat is an opportune time for rectifying the transgression of Adam and Eve. Amazingly, just through the simple act of eating fruit during the Tu B’Shvat festive dinner, we are able to contribute to this cosmic repair (“tikkun“).”

Read more about the customs and mystical insights about Tu B’Shvat at Chabad.org


Shabbat Shalom

Song at the Sea

This week’s Parsha, Beshalach, contains the “song at the sea” sung by the Children of Israel upon their deliverance from the Egyptians, when the Red Sea split to allow them to pass and then drowned their pursuers. Hence this Shabbat is designated as Shabbat Shirah, “Shabbat of song.”  Our sages tell us that the birds in the sky joined our ancestors in their singing; for this reason it is customary to put out food for the birds before this Shabbat. 

Writes Rabbi Aharon Loschak: “The song at the sea was an expression of the deep connection the Jews experienced with G-d; a reflection of a reality in which there is nothing other than G-d…And that is the story of song for you and I, today….It’s the story of stirring your soul to be excited about true things, matters that touch your soul’s very core. When are you supposed to do that? During prayer. More specifically, the first part of the morning prayers. Labeled in texts of Jewish law as “Songs of Praise,” this portion of prayer recounts G-d’s greatness and glory in vivid detail, and it is here that we recite the Az Yashir—the Song at the Sea.”


Mind Over Matter

There Is Nothing We Cannot Achieve

Rabbi Menachem Feldman wrote: “As finite beings, we tend to see things in black and white. We often define ourselves in terms of what we can do and can’t do. We tell ourselves that there are certain things we are capable of doing, we’re good at, and we’re comfortable striving for. Then are the things we believe to be beyond our grasp. The things that are inconsistent with our nature, ability and inclination. The Torah teaches us that as the sea split, as the hidden world came to light, the core of the soul was also unveiled. At that moment of revelation, the Jewish people realized that the soul defies definition. They realized that they could express themselves in opposite ways; they could excel in contrasting fields. They could be introverts as well as extroverts, scholars as well as people of action…A soul is not limited to a single form of expression. A soul cannot be boxed into one model of achievement. As soon as we reveal our essence, there is nothing that we cannot achieve.”


Moshiach Thoughts

“G-d will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Beshalach 17:16)

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet wrote: “A Jew is to remember every day what Amalek did, and we are commanded to “blot out the memory of Amalek” (Ki Teitzei 25:19). Nowadays we cannot identify Amalek as a nation. But there is also a spiritual Amalek lurking in the recesses of our hearts: Of Amalek it is said, “karcha-he made you cool off ” (Ki Teitzei 25:18). That is, he cooled Israel’s fervor and enthusiasm for G-dliness after the exodus from Egypt on their way to Sinai to receive the Torah. This spiritual Amalek is anything that would cool our bond with Torah and mitzvot. It is our task to fend off this spiritual Amalek and clear a path to the revelation of the inner dimension of the Torah that will be manifested by Moshiach, speedily in our days.”


Have I Got A Story

Faith In Times of Crisis

A story is told of a man who was driving about, desperate to find a parking spot. With no spots available, he called out, “Dear G-d, give me a parking spot and I will pledge a thousand dollars to charity.” Instantaneously a spot became available, and he quickly amended, “Never mind, dear G-d, I found one on my own . . .”

We feel self-reliant as we make our way through life. So long as we train, plan and execute well, we can weather the storms thrown our way. But when there comes a crisis that we are unequipped to handle, we panic. There is little we, as individuals, can do to save a sinking economy, counter the threat of terror or protect ourselves against natural disasters. Unable to take constructive action, we are left without our usual shield. Exposed and vulnerable, we often panic.

No nation faced odds worse than those faced by Israel at their moment of exodus. Indeed, they had left Egypt, but where could they go? If they would take the most direct route to Israel, they would encounter the fierce Philistines, who were determined to halt the Jewish advance. If they would turn toward the desert, they would venture into an arid and inhospitable environment with little hope for survival. What to do?

Knowing that His children were unequipped to counter the Philistines, G-d turned them toward the wilderness. The Hebrew words for “G-d turned them” are vayaseiv Elokim, but the word vayaseiv has multiple meanings. It means “turned”; it means “surrounded”; and it is also etymologically related to the word leiseiv, to lean or recline. Utilizing all three meanings, our sages offered a timeless insight that inspires faith and courage even in times of difficulty. Vayaseiv—He turned and He surrounded. When G-d turned our ancestors toward the wilderness, He also surrounded them. Imagine a shepherd who comes across a pack of wolves while driving his herd across the range. The first thing he does is ride circles around his herd. As he rides, he forms a protective circle around the herd that enables him to shield them from the wolves.

G-d did the same. When He turned the Jews to the desert, He exposed them to terrible dangers, but they remained safe because He surrounded them with a protective circle of miracles. Here we see the first two translation of the Hebrew word vayaseiv: He turned them [to the desert], and there He surrounded them.

Now we come to the third translation of vayaseiv: G-d taught them to lean or recline against Him. When the Jews first left Egypt, they did not know how to lean on G-d or trust in Him. For decades they had relied solely on the Egyptians for provisions. Entering the desert was a huge test of faith. For the first time, they would have to discard their protective blanket and put their full trust in G-d. Despite the dangers, they thrived. G-d surrounded them with a chain of miracles that protected and sustained them. First He split the sea and saved them from the Egyptians. Then G-d granted them a cloud canopy to protect them from the desert elements. Then came the manna, food provided from heaven. And finally, He provided a miraculous well that never ran dry.

For forty years G-d provided for our ancestors and protected them from all harm, and thus they learned to lean on Him—that is, to trust Him. After forty years, when such absolute trust became second nature to them, G-d brought them to Israel, where they would finally battle and overcome their powerful enemies. 

In many ways, we are raised to depend on ourselves, rather than G-d. When we are young, we are trained to rely on our parents. As we grow older, we are taught to depend on ourselves; and for very large problems, we are taught to rely on our governments. For problems that even governments cannot handle, we have no solution.

Our sages sought to lift us to a higher plane by empowering us to believe and stand fast, no matter the danger. Remember, they taught, having done all that you could to help yourself, you may rest easy, secure in the faith that G-d will deliver. Lean on G-d for strength. He is there for you. He surrounds you day and night. You can trust Him. We cannot see the protective canopy that G-d spreads around us. 

We pray every day to be spared from such trials; no one wants to be tested. However, the journey of life is rarely smooth, and is often strewn with troubles. When this happens, we must remember that we are not alone. We are in G-d’s good company and under His protection.

From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

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