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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, the 93rd issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
This Shabbat, Parshat Beshalach, is known as Shabbat Shirah. Also, Thursday, Jan. 23, is Tu B'Shevat. Therefore, this week our feature presentation focuses on these two topics.
It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind
9 Shevat, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
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After the miraculous Splitting of the Red Sea, as related in this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, Moses leads the Jewish men in singing their praises of G-d, and Miriam, the prophetess, leads the women in their song of thanks.
The Torah tells us that the joy experienced by the women was far greater than that of the men. "And all the women went out...with tambourines and dances."
In fact, the Midrash relates that when the heavenly angels wanted to add their voices to the "Song of the Splitting of the Red Sea," G-d told them that they must wait until the women had finished.
The exile in Egypt was much harsher for the Jewish women than for their husbands. Of all Pharaoh's decrees against the Children of Israel, the most pitiless was the one that broke every Jewish mother's heart: "Every son that is born you shall throw into the river." The pain and suffering experienced by the Jewish women was more intense than the hardships the men were forced to endure, and when salvation came, the joy they felt was therefore greater as well.
The stories in the Torah teach us lessons that apply in all generations. Pharaoh's decrees against the Jewish people have appeared again and again, throughout history, in various forms. Their aim, however, has never changed. The Egyptian Pharaoh sought to kill Jewish babies by drowning them in the Nile; later despots sought to destroy Jewish souls in ways equally dangerous, although not always as obvious.
In our days, when most Jews, thank G-d, live in relative safety and security, the decrees of Pharaoh imperil the spiritual existence of the Jewish people. "Pharaoh" rears his head in the guise of popular culture and the winds of arbitrary and capricious conventional wisdom, which threaten to sever the Jewish people from the eternal and timeless values of the Torah. "Pharaoh" seeks to immerse and drown the minds of impressionable Jewish children in the waters of whatever is, at the moment, trendy and fashionable.
The threat is not all that different from the one faced in Egypt, because Jews cannot exist for long without their faith in G-d and the study of Torah. Jewish children need a solid Jewish education to ensure the continuation of our people.
Today, just as in Egypt, the main responsibility--to safeguard our greatest national treasure, our children, from negative influences --lies with the Jewish mother. Jewish women have, throughout the generations, been granted the power to set the proper tone in the home and make it a place where their children will flourish and grow up to be good Jews.
In this way Jewish women will see true satisfaction from their children and merit to sing G-d's praises at the Final Redemption, speedily in our days.
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In this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, we read the song of the Children of Israel led by Moshe after the splitting of the Red Sea and the special song of the women led by Miriam the Prophetess.
In the Egyptian exile, it was Miriam who relayed the prophecy that a redeemer would emerge. Even when the leaders of that generation could not foresee an end to servitude and oppression, she spread hope and trust among her people.
When her mother was forced to place Moshe, the future redeemer of the Jews, in the Nile, her father Amram approached Miriam and asked her, "What will be the result of your prophecy? How will it be fulfilled?"
Miriam remained at the banks of the Nile and "stood at a distance to know what would happen to him." Our Sages explain that, in addition to her concern for her brother's future, she was concerned about the fate of her prophecy. How indeed would the redemption come about?
In a metaphorical sense, this narrative is relevant to all Jewish women, those living at present and those whose souls are in the spiritual realms. Concerned over the fate of the Jewish people, they anxiously await the Redemption.
The anxious anticipation of the redemption felt by Miriam--and by all of the Jewish women in Egypt--was paralleled in its intensity by their exuberant celebration when, after the miracles of the Red Sea, that redemption was consummated. After the men joined Moshe in song, the women broke out in song and dance, giving thanks to G-d with a spiritual rejoicing which surpassed that of the men.
The Torah's description of this celebration also testifies to the deep faith inherent in Jewish women. The commentaries relate that as the women prepared to leave Egypt, they were so confident that G-d would perform miracles on behalf of their people in the desert that they took tambourines with them so they could rejoice when the time came.
In the very near future, we will celebrate the ultimate Redemption. We can now experience a foretaste of this impending celebration. Although we are still in exile, the confidence that the Redemption is an imminent reality should inspire us with happiness. For the Jewish people have completed all the Divine service necessary to bring the Redemption. To borrow an analogy of our Sages, the table has already been set for the feast celebrating the Redemption, everything has been served, and we are sitting together with Moshiach. All that is necessary is that we open our eyes.
The experience of such happiness demonstrates the strength of our trust in the promise of the Redemption, and the expression of this faith will, in turn, hasten its realization.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"
The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.
Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.
This Shabbat, known as "Shabbat Shirah," commemorating the shirah, or song that the Jewish people sang at the Splitting of the Red Sea. The song is recorded in the weekly Torah portion, and includes details of how Moshe led the men in song and Miriam led the women in song and dance.
On Shabbat Shirah it is customary to eat kasha--buckwheat groats.
Some also have the custom of putting kasha or bread crumbs out for the birds before Shabbat so that they, too, can partake.
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The reason for this custom is quite interesting and originates in the weekly Torah portion. We read this week about the manna, the bread from Heaven, with which the Jews were sustained during their 40-year sojourn in the desert. The Jews were commanded to gather each morning just enough manna to feed their families for the day. Miraculously, each person had precisely the amount he needed for his family, not more and not less.
Before Shabbat, the Jews were told to gather a double portion; no manna would fall on Shabbat since it is forbidden to gather on the holy day. Some scoffers saved some of their manna from that morning and scattered it on Friday evening. Their plan was to gather the manna Shabbat morning and bring it into the camp, thus discrediting Moses and proving their claim that Moses created his own mitzvot.
During the night, after the manna had been strewn, birds came and gathered it all up, thus vindicating Moses and sanctifying the Sabbath among the Jewish people.
In appreciation and gratitude of the birds' deed, we make sure to give them food on Shabbat Shirah.
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Might we not take a lesson from this Jewish tradition passed on through the ages? If it is customary to show gratitude to birds for such a small act, might we not also learn to show gratitude to our brothers and sisters for each act of kindness or caring that they do for us?
"On Tu B'Sheva [this year Thus., Jan. 23], it is customary to partake generously of fruits, and in particular, the species of fruit for which the Land of Israel is blessed--wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates... similarly, it is customary to eat carobs on Tu B'Shevat."
The Rebbe, 11 Shevat, 5751/1991
Some have the custom of making fruit-salad from fifteen different fruits.
A Sephardic custom is to stay awake the entire night, studying all the biblical, talmudic and kabbalistic sources relating to the fruit of Israel and stopping at intervals to eat different fruits.
Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, is here. But what does that have to do with us, other than eating some extra fruit, etc.?
Let's take a moment to consider the fruit for which the Land of Israel is blessed as enumerated by the Torah: Two, wheat and barley, are grains. The other five, grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates, are fruits.
One difference between grain and fruit is that grain is a staple food, necessary for the maintenance of our well-being. Fruits are delicacies, eaten for pleasure. Tu B'Shevat gives us the potential to carry out our service, not only according to the very minimum necessary to maintain our existence, but rather in a manner that leads to pleasure--our own and our Creator's.
There is another area in which grains and fruits differ. When grain is harvested, though there is an abundant increase in quantity, the grain is of the same nature as the kernels which were originally planted. In contrast, the seed of a fruit tree is of an entirely different nature than the fruit that is later harvested.
Similarly, in regard to our service of G-d, the metaphor of fruit trees alludes to a service that is not limited to the basic necessities, but rather generates pleasure. It reveals the potential for growth, not only a quantitative increase, but also, a leap to a higher level, a new framework of reference altogether.
Since Tu B'Shevat is the "New Year of the Trees," it generates new life energy for those dimensions of a Jew's service that are compared to trees.
May we all truly avail ourselves of this new life energy to fulfill our potential in making this world a fitting home for G-d and G-dliness.
JEWISH WOMEN AND GIRLS LIGHT SHABBAT CANDLES
* For local candle lighting times, consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch
Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
* For a free candle lighting kit, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.
* For a listing of the Centers in your area, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
Friday, Jan. 24, Erev Shabbat Parshat Beshalach:
Light Shabbat Candles,* by 4:44 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 25, Shabbat Parshat Beshalach:
Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 5:49 p.m.
*. The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.
Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind
Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing
"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.
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