Saturday, January 19, 2008

DVAR TORAH S2: Beshalach/Shabbat Shira/Tu Bishvat (Wonder-ous Bread)

Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam HaMotzi Lechem Min HaShamayim.
"Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the sky."

Thus is recited the prayer upon the manna, the sustenance from heaven which will nourish us for forty years in the desert. In this week's Torah portion we are finally rid of Pharaoh forever. We cross the Sea of Reeds and the first thing we realize is that there is no water. Thus begins 40 years of kvetching in the desert. After being slaves for so many centuries we are unable to care for ourselves so we depend on God. It will be only at the divine providence of God that we will have fresh water in the wilderness, that food will come from heaven and be ready on the ground for us to glean, and that we will be able to defeat our enemies, even Amalek who will attack us from behind in Rephidim at the conclusion of this Parasha.

In my rabbinical school essays I said that God is much like a parent. He provides for us in stages. After Egypt we are a nascent fledgling people and so God pushes aside the obstacles and while He "trains" us for 40 years he also provides for our food and drink and participates in our daily lives. Even though God is incredibly active in our lives at this point, we are going to cry like babies when anything goes wrong "wah, we miss the cholents of Egypt!" (the usual translation is flesh-pots but I think it means cholent...). Once we cross the Jordan River in 40 years, the manna will cease to fall. Yet the blessing remains similar to the equivalent: "Hamotzi Lechem Min HaAretz" "Who brings bread out from the earth". This time we are now part of the process. God sends seed, rain, and sun, but we cannot eat the grain as it comes out from the earth, we must harvest, mill, grind, knead, and bake before it is edible to humans. We were babies as we came out of Egypt with the sustenance from the heavens, but now we make our own bread with the help of God, Partners in God's Creation.

And I think the latter is superior.

In addition, we celebrate this bounty with the holiday of Tu Bishvat which comes this monday where we will enjoy the fruits of Israel, especially appropriate this Sabbatical Shemita year where the produce of Israel is free-for-all. Rich and poor can all legally appreciate the cornucopia of the culinary delights of the land.

Shabbat Shira Shalom and Chag Sameach. I was going to talk about birds, but I forgot. Maybe next year.

On that note, once again we cross the sea, and with Beshalach, I finish my second year of Divrei Torah. Whether or not I continue is dependent upon workload, have any ideas, etc... Thank you for all who read my Divrei Torah and I hope to continue soon.

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