Parashat Beshalach (When he sent) Exodus 13:17-17:16
Haftarah: Judges 4:4-5:31
This Shabbat is special for a couple of reasons. First, this Shabbat is called Shabbat Shira, which means song. This relates to the victory over Pharaoh at the crossing of the Red Sea. One will recall that Moses and the Children of Israel sang a song to celebrate the deliverance that HaShem miraculously provided. The prophet passage for this week also picks up on this theme and tells of another great victory that was lead by Devorah and Barak in the book of Judges. In chapter five the reader is informed that both Devorah and Barak sang a song of praise to G-d, thanking Him for this victory.
Another reason this Shabbat is special is because of the date. Shabbat falls on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Shevat. This is known as Tu B’Shevat which is the New Year for trees. There is a tradition to plant trees on this day. Of course because this year it falls on Shabbat, one will not plant trees until after the Shabbat. One also eats the fruit of trees and makes a special blessing thanking HaShem for the produce of trees.
In the Scripture, man is likened to a tree in several places. One of these places is in the first Psalm. In this Psalm the man who walks uprightly, having been enlightened by the Word of G-d, is said to be “like a tree planted along the streams of water, which gives its fruit in its season and whose leaves do not wither and all that he does prospers” (Verse 3). The important thing to learn from this Psalm is that it does not say that every tree is fruitful, but rather the one which is located in the right spot, near the water.
Location is important for the believer; if we do not guard ourselves from improper influences one will find himself out of location. Like the tree which is not planted along the rivers will wither, so will the believer begin to spiritually wither if he is not located where HaShem wants him to be located. Whereas a tree cannot change its location, you and I can and therefore it is most easy to find oneself not doing the things that keep one close to the source of spiritual growth and fruitfulness. Unfortunately we do not have leaves that start to wither and reveal our spiritual condition. But there is an indicator that does indeed indicate where one is spiritually— it is joy.
We learn in the book of Nehemiah that the joy of the L-rd is our strength. When joy is absent there is something wrong with us, and the first place you should look is your spiritual location.
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