Parshas Beshalach/Shabbos Shira 5758

There are some wonderful customs that are drawn from this week's Parsha concerning the Crossing of the Red Sea, and the Giving of the Manna.

1) THE SONG OF THE SEA: The Song of the Sea, in the recitation of the Psukei D'Zimrah in the Shacharis prayer is chanted by the Chazzan and the congregation in call and response fashion using (ta'am elyon) its special Torah reading melody. The Holy Zohar says that if one recites the Song of the Sea joyously (everyday), and imagines that he himself, on this day is going through the Sea, all of his transgression are forgiven.

2) THE CHALLOHS: On Erev Shabbos , the Children of Israel received a double portion of Manna. The Torah calls it Lechem Mishneh. (Exodus 16:5,22) This is the source of the custom to set the Shabbos table with two Challohs for each meal; a remembrance of the double portion. The Torah also explains how the Manna was presented to them; laying on the ground on a layer of fresh dew, with another layer of dew covering it over. (Exodus 16:13) This a source for the custom of covering the Challohs. The Challohs represent the Manna, the white tablecloth below, and the Challoh cover above represent the two layers of dew.

3) SHABBOS FOOD: The Torah (Exodus 16:22) says that on Shabbos they received a double portion of Manna, two Omers per person. The Midrash asks why the Torah needs to tell us that they received two Omers per person if it told us already that they got a double portion (Lechem Mishneh). Therefore, concludes the Midrash, the words "Lechem Mishneh" are not needed to teach us that they got a double portion, and are mean to be expounded upon. It should be read not Lechem Mishneh (a double portion), rather as Lechem Mishooneh (different or changed bread). In honor of Shabbos, they received a "changed" Manna with a superior smell and taste. Hashem endowed Israel's very first Shabbos, with that special Shabbos spice which gives the Shabbos food it's sublime and exquisite taste.

Despite the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the Sea and the Manna, there were people who still didn't have faith in the leadership of Moshe Rabbenu. The Midrash explains how Dosson and Aviram, wanting to malign Moshe, went with their Manna early on Shabbos morning and spread it around the camp. They planned to show everybody that Moshe Rabbenu was lying when he told them that there would be no Manna to gather on Shabbos. But before anybody woke up, birds came and effected a great Chiddush Hashem by eating up all the Manna that was spread out on the ground. In appreciation of their deed, there is a custom to make some Shvartze Kasha (buckwheat groats) or leave some of the Shabbos Cholent for the birds so that they can enjoy a taste of the Shabbos which they helped to sanctify. We put it out for them after Havdalah and they always lick the bowl clean!


FAITH HEALING

Hashem is the source of the disease and the source of the cure.

"And they came to Marrah, but they could not drink the water there on account of its bitterness. Therefore the place was named Marrah. And the people complained to Moshe saying, 'What will we drink? So Moshe beseeched Hashem and He showed him a tree. 'Cast it into the waters, (said Hashem), and they will be sweetened.' There He gave them statutes and laws, and there he tested them. And Moshe said, 'If you will listen to the voice of Hashem, and do that which is upright in His eyes, and listen to His Mitzvos, and keep His statutes, then all the sickness that I brought on Egypt I will not bring on you; I am Hashem your Healer. Then they came to Elim, and there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there by the water." (Exodus 15:25-27)

The 12th Century sage, Rabbenu Ephraim, comments that the tree whose branches Moshe cast into the waters was from The Garden of Eden. Because of its great sweetness, it transformed the waters from bitter to sweet.
". . .There He gave them statutes and laws. . .", any time they came to a place where the water was bitter, they only had to throw a branch of that same tree into the waters, and they would be come sweetened.

". . . and there he tested them. . .", with the same tree which was already tried and tested. Any ill person who would drink from those sweetened waters would be healed. That is the reason why in the next verse the Torah says, ". . .I am Hashem your Healer".

R' Chaim David Azulai, known as the Chida, adds, that after ". . .I am Hashem your Healer", comes the verse: "Then they came to Elim, and there were twelve springs of water. . .". This is a proof for the idea that Rabbenu Ephraim posed; that the sweet waters were actually healing waters. In the ancient Book of Healing and Remedies passed down to us through the generations, it was revealed which of the springs that were unleashed to cause the Great Flood in the time of Noach, were healing springs. Chizkiyahu, King of Judah, stopped up those springs and interred the Book of Healing in a place unknown to this day. Why? So that instead of simply taking a remedy from the book, we learn to turn to Hashem to ask for healing.


FAITH SPELLED OUT

"And the Children of Israel saw (the Manna) and said to one another, 'It is Mon (prepared and ready to eat), since they didn't know what it was. And Moshe said to them, This is the bread that Hashem has given you to eat." (Exodus 16:15)

In light of the previous idea, the following is amazing.
The previous Modjitzer Rebbe, R' Shaul Yedidya, zt"l said that the letters of the words "It is Mon" מן הוא , when rearranged spell אמונה, (faith).


SHABBOS MEALS

How can the sweetness and beauty of Shabbos be described? In this week's Parsha, where the first mitzvah of Shabbos is given, we find the following verse: "And Moshe said (concerning the Manna) eat it today, for today is Shabbos to Hashem, you won't find it (the Manna) in the field." (Exodus 16:25)

R' Yechezkhel of Kuzhmir said, ". . .eat it today. . ." can be read in Hebrew, "Eat the day, eat the day itself!" The sweetness and beauty of Shabbos is so delicious that it can only be experienced by biting into it and savoring its taste.

And Shabbos is a day for staying in the house with family and friends or in the Study hall. On Shabbos, continues the verse, ". . .you won't find it in the field".


FAITH AND FRIENDSHIP
Manna, Friendship and Torah are three legged stool; if one leg is missing it cannot stand.

"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Behold, I am going to rain bread down on you from the heavens, and the people will go out to gather it, in order to test you, if you will go in the ways of my Torah or not.'" (Exodus 16:4)

R' Menachem Mendel of Riminov wrote extensively on the subject of the Manna. This selection is the opening piece on Parshas HaMon from his work "Menachem Tzion".

There are a number of questions that need to be asked on this verse. First of all, why didn't the matzo which the Children of Israel took with them out of Egypt last them at least until the time of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai? Furthermore, what is the connection between the giving of the Manna and the test that Hashem wanted to make?

Why didn't the matzo last until the time of the giving of the Torah? R 'Menachem Mendel of Riminov, one of the four principal disciples of R' Elimelech of Lizshensk, answered that Hashem wanted to reward Yisrael with the gift of the Manna. Through eating the Manna, they would be able to acquire the good character traits that later on would enable them to accept the Torah and fulfill its Mitzvos.

Rabbenu Tam, the grandson of Rashi and one of the Tosafists, states in his work on Jewish Philosophy, Sefer HaYashar, that the source of all good character traits is faith and trust in the Providence of Hashem. In thway one can come quickly to the foundation of the whole Torah, the mitzvoh of "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself".

There is a famous story in the Talmud. (Tractate Shabbos 31a) A potential convert came to Shammai and asked him to teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. Shammai, not the type to be bothered by such people, drove him out of the house with a stick. The potential convert didn't give up. He went to Hillel the Elder and again asked to be taught the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. (Obviously he wanted to know in a nutshell, "What is the essence of Judaism?") Hillel, unintimidated, took up the challenge. He said, "That which is hateful to you, don't do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary, go and learn!"

Hillel's answer is the mitzvoh of "V'Ahavta L'Rayacha K'Mocha", "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself". Chassidic literature repeatedly reiterates the point. This mitzvoh of "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself" is the central mitzvoh of the Torah; the one around which all the others revolve.

The Riminover maintained that anybody can see the truth of this. If one really regards his friend with love and respect, then he will never even consider stealing from him or harming him or his family in any way. Just the opposite is true. He would endeavor to help his friend in any way possible.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to fulfill the dictates of "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself" wholeheartedly without first developing an unwavering sense of faith and trust in the Providence of Hashem. That means believing totally that Hashem is at the helm; that He conducts the world in such a way that each and every creation in it receives exactly what it needs, and in the proper time. Everything a person needs is apportioned to him and there isn't another who can take away or divert anything that belongs to him. One who understands this concept is immediately endowed with a deep awareness of Hashem's Providence, and with a sense of total trust and faith in Hashem. His heart is always at rest since he knows that anything and everything that he might require will be supplied to him by Hashem. This person will not spend his days and years in the pursuit of wealth, possessions and luxuries since he knows that it is not his efforts that bring material wealth, rather the will of Hashem. Each person receives what Hashem budgets for him; no more no less. (The exception is expenses laid out for Shabbos, Yom Tov and the Jewish education of one's children. The Talmud states that Hashem will reimburse a Jew for all those expenses. Tractate Rosh HaShanah)

One for whom this becomes second nature can easily fulfill the mitzvoh of "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself". He will have no desire for anything which belongs to his neighbor, and none of the inner turmoil of jealousy. He knows that what his neighbor has was rightfully granted to him by Hashem.

So much is this true that even should one's neighbor open a store right next to his, he will not feel any animosity or vengeance, since he is certain that the actions of his neighbor cannot harm him at all and pose absolutely no threat to his livelihood.

This is the explanation for the timing of the giving of Manna, and why Hashem gave the Manna in such a way that it fell enough for one day at a time and no more. It was in order to train the Children of Israel in the ways of faith and trust in Hashem, and to learn not to worry about what will be tomorrow. Each one was allowed to collect the same amount; an Omer per person. If one did try to "become rich" by gathering more than an Omer, it didn't do him any good. If one tried to take more or less than an Omer, when he got home and measured the Manna, it came out an Omer! (One of the miracles of the Manna, says Rashi.) If he worried that tomorrow maybe the Manna wouldn't come and he left some over for the next day, in the morning he found that it had become infested with vermin. Therefore, nobody had any reason to be jealous or look over his shoulder at his friend.

This was the method by which Hashem taught the children of Israel to accept the Torah, which has as its central mitzvoh "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself".

This then is the explanation of the verse, "Behold, I am going to rain bread down on you from the heavens, and the people will go out to gather it, in order to test you, if you will go in the ways of my Torah or not." By receiving the Manna and obeying all the rules that went along with it, the Children of Israel were indeed tested and thereby made ready for the Giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.


LIVING BY FAITH

It was the custom of R' Zusia of Anipoli, to recite his morning prayers at length. After he concluded, he would retire to his room next to the Shul. Once there, he would open the window and lifting his eyes to the heavens call out, "Master of the World, Zusia (he always referred to himself in the third person) is very hungry and desires to eat something!"

Every morning, his attendant would wait until he heard R' Zusia's appeal, then he would bring in R' Zusia's morning meal of cake with a little schnapps.

One morning the attendant thought to himself, "Why doesn't R' Zusia ask me directly for his meal. In fact, who does he think he is fooling by calling out to Hashem like that. He knows full well that I bring him his food everyday." So on the spot he decided that the next morning he would not bring R' Zusia's meal when he called out. He would just wait to see what would happen and where R' Zusia's would look for his meal.

The next morning, R' Zusia awoke as usual, well before the light of day. As he did every morning, he first went to the town Mikveh to immerse himself in preparation for the day's holy work. The night had been a rainy one in Anipoli, and the streets of the town had already turned to rivers of mud. In order to get from one side of the street to another, one had to cross on narrow planks that were laid across the flowing mud. As R' Zusia was crossing in the direction of the Mikveh, a man whom he didn't recognize, a guest in town, was coming towards R' Zusia from the other side. When he saw R' Zusia, gaunt, almost emaciated, dressed in rags without a tooth in his mouth, the stranger yelled out, "Itinerant!", and with a hearty laugh jumped up and down on the plank causing R' Zusia to tumble into the mud.

R' Zusia didn't say a word. He calmly picked himself out of the mud and continued on his way to the Mikveh, while the stranger sauntered off into the distance, chuckling merrily the whole way as he re-enacted his great prank over and over in his mind. When he arrived back at the inn where he was staying, he couldn't help but brag to the innkeeper about his good prank. The innkeeper didn't laugh so quickly. He asked the guest to describe the "itinerant" whom he had catapulted into the mud. He suddenly clapped his hands to his head and cried out in anguish, "Oy VaVoy, Oy Oy, do you know what you did!? That was not just some itinerant, that was the Rebbe R' Zusia!"

Now it was the turn of the guest to cry out "Oy VaVoy". R' Zusia was known to all as a holy man and a Tzaddik. Trembling, the guest cried out, "Oy Vey, Oy Vey! What am I going to do now? What am I going to do now?!"

"Don't worry", exclaimed the innkeeper regaining his composure, "Listen to me, I know what you should do. R' Zusia spends many hours every morning in prayer. When he is finished he goes into his private room next to the Shul. There he opens the window, and anybody can see how he leans out and lifting his eyes to heaven calls out, 'Master of the World, Zusia is very hungry and desires to eat something!' I'll prepare some cakes and some schnapps for you to take to him. When you hear him call out to the Creator, you go in immediately with this gift, and offer it to him and beg his forgiveness. I'm certain that he will forgive you whole-heartedly."

That morning, like every morning, after the prayers, R' Zusia went into his room, opened the window and called o, "Master of the World, Zusia is very hungry and desires to eat something!" The attendant, upon hearing R' Zusia, held his ground and clasped his folded arms together even tighter, waiting to see what the outcome would be. "Let Hashem bring him his cake this morning", he huffed to himself.

Suddenly the door to the Shul opened and a man, holding a large plate of cakes and a bottle of schnapps came in and made his way to the room of R' Zusia. He went straight in, put the cakes on the table, then fell to the floor in grief, begging the Tzaddik for his forgiveness (which he was certainly granted).

Let it be known, that the attendant came to understand that it really was the Master of the World who brought R' Zusia his breakfast every morning.


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