Food For the Soul
This is the week when we read of the great Exodus. Let my people go that they may serve Me was the Divine call transmitted by Moses to Pharaoh. Now, if the purpose of leaving Egypt and Pharaoh’s whip was to be able to serve G-d, where is the freedom? We are still slaves, only now we are servants of the Almighty! Indeed, countless individuals continue to question the merits of religion in general. Who wants to submit to the rigours of religion when we can be free spirits? Many Jews argue similarly. Mitzvahs cramp my style. Keeping kosher is a serious inconvenience. Shabbat really gets in the way of my weekend.
Long ago, the sages of the Talmud said it was actually the other way around. There is no one as free as he who is occupied with the study of the Torah. But how can this possibly be true? Let me share an answer I once heard on the radio. It was during a BBC interview with Malcolm Muggeridge, the former editor of Punch, the satirical British magazine. In his later years, Malcolm Muggeridge became religious and the interviewer was questioning how the sultan of satire, the prince of Punch could make such a radical transformation and become religious. Muggeridge’s answer was a classic. He said he had a friend who was a famous yachtsman, an accomplished navigator of the high seas. The yachtsman taught him that if you want to enjoy the freedom of the high seas, he must first become a slave to the compass. Only by following the lead of the compass will the wind catch our sails so we can experience the ecstasy and exhilaration of the high seas.
The Torah is the compass of life. It provides our navigational fix so we know where to go and how to get there. Without the Torah’s guidance and direction, we would be lost in the often-stormy seas of confusion. Without a spiritual guidance system, we flounder about, wandering aimlessly through life. Within the Torah lifestyle, there is still ample room for spontaneity and freedom of expression. We can be committed to the compass and still be free spirits. Indeed, there are none as free as they who are occupied with Torah.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Majorcan Jews Guaranteed Protection (1393)
This Shabbat marks the day in history when the governor of Majorca issued an edict for the protection of the Jewish inhabitants, providing that any citizen who injures a Jew would be hanged. The advantageous position of the islands, as well as their newly-found protection, attracted many Jews from Provence, Sicily, Tunis, and Algiers, amongst other African cities. The Jews even had their own organizations and representatives by the sanction of the King.
“Yud Shevat” observances
Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim observe the special customs of the Shabbat prior to the yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), which occurs next week, on 10 Shevat.
Mind Over Matter
Every day transcend the limitations and boundaries set for you by this world. Make every day another Exodus from Egypt. But with two distinctions: Egypt had to be broken. The world must be repaired.
We left Egypt. We must stay within the world. This is the paradoxical path of inner truth: Remain within the world, but escape its grasp. Because in truth the world is good. But as long as you allow the world to dictate your boundaries, it will not show you its truth.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“G‑d said to Moses: Come to Pharaoh. . .” (Bo 10:1)
This verse raises a question: Why did the Torah use the expression bo (come), rather than the seemingly more appropriate lech (go)? This parashah relates to the events of the redemption from Egypt, and the word Bo is the very name of the parashah.
There is a fundamental difference between bo (come) and lech (go). To go to something may imply no more than a superficial involvement. For example, you may “go” to study Torah and do your learning, but it will not affect you to the fullest extent. You and the subject matter may remain two separate entities. To come to something, however, implies that the subject matter will “enter” your mind and heart, affect and influence you to the point of absorbing unification. Everything in the service of G‑d must be done in a way of penetrating to one’s very core.
The approach of bo (come) hastens the coming of Moshiach and the redemption from the galut, speedily in our very own days.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Have You Seen a Miracle Lately?
I see miracles all the time. Walking, talking miracles. If I would be on the lookout, I would notice many more of these living miracles. But every once in a while, the miracle just stares me in the eye and it becomes too hard to ignore.
Like the Holocaust survivor I met, who saw horrors that no mortal eye should see, yet refuses to miss his daily prayers.
Or the young woman with flaming red curls who approached me after my hair-covering lecture to tell me she plans to cover her beautiful locks once she marries, but wants advice on how to sensitively approach her parents so they don’t feel rejected by her lifestyle change.
Or the woman who had an abusive childhood and who would be justified in giving in to bouts of depression, but is determined to use her experience instead to grow spiritually and bring joy to our world.
Or the man I met in a small European town who decided to uproot himself and move to a new country, a new language and a new career in order to find and marry a Jewish woman.
These are all miracles. The repercussions of each of these nature-defying acts are world-shattering. These are people inspired to bring positive change to their lives. People who don’t allow the natural heavy pull of inertia, pain or disillusionment to hold them back from achieving greatness. People who break all barriers to connect with their divine soul.
In this week’s Torah portion, after the miraculous ten plagues are visited on the Egyptians, G‑d commands Moses, “This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you, it shall be the first of the months of the year.” (Exodus 12:2). Up until this point, Tishrei, the month of creation, was considered the first month of the year. Although Tishrei still begins the new year, when counting the months Nisan is considered the first month, and Tishrei the seventh.
When G-d created the world, He set up divine forces, which we call nature, to govern it. Miracles were the exception. Therefore Tishrei, the month in which the world and its natural forces came into being, was considered the primary month. But then came the birth of the Jewish people, a nation that would become living, walking miracles. The miraculous Exodus and our subsequent survival throughout our tumultuous history defy the very laws of nature. The existence of the Jewish people proves that when you are attached to G‑d and His Torah, you are not subject to natural limitations. And the most profound way in which we transcend nature is by fusing heaven and earth, by breaking through our physical and emotional limitations, striving higher and bringing an awareness of an infinite G‑d into this finite, material world. Here’s to a week full of living miracles!