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Brit Chadashah

Jan. 27, 2018
Shevat 11, 5778
IHRD

Tu B'Shevat

Beshalach
 

Exod. 13:17-17:16
[Table Talk]

Judg. 4:4-5:31

John 6:15-71;
1 Cor. 10:1-5

 

Audio Summary (mp3)

The Baptism of Moses...

Last week's Torah portion (parashat Bo) described how the Israelites were finally released from Egypt after God delivered the final plague during the time of Passover. In this week's portion, the Israelites began their journey home, after 430 years of exile. Instead of leading them along a direct route to the Promised Land, however, God directed them south, toward the desert, where the Glory of God appeared as a Pillar of Cloud by day and as a Pillar of Fire by night to lead them on their way. When Pharaoh heard that the Israelites were at the border of the desert, however, he perversely decided to pursue them and bring them back to Egypt. God then redirected the Israelites to camp near the edge of the Sea of Reeds, where the Egyptian army finally caught up with them. Dramatically, the Israelites were caught between the sea on one side, and Pharaoh's army on the other...

The terrified people then began to blame Moses for their predicament. Moses reassured them of God's final deliverance and raised his staff to miraculously divide the waters of the sea. All that night the Shekhinah Glory enshrouded the Egyptian army but gave light to Israel as the people crossed through the sea on dry ground. Just before dawn, the dark pillar of cloud that veiled the Egyptian army lifted, and the soldiers immediately rushed after the Israelites into pathway of the sea. God then told Moses to lift his staff again so that the waters would overwhelm the Egyptians with their chariots and horsemen. By the time dawn arrived, the Israelites saw the dead bodies of Pharaoh's army lining the seashore.

Shabbat Shirah - שַׁבַּת שִׁירָה

Moses and Miriam then led the people of Israel in a spontaneous hymn of thanks and praise to God for their complete deliverance from Pharaoh, which is often called the "Song of the Sea" (i.e., shirah hayam). The song begins, "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation" / עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי־לִי לִישׁוּעָה (Exod. 15:2, cp. Isa. 12:2). For Orthodox Jews, singing Shirat Hayam every day is thought to fulfill the biblical commandment to "remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long as you live" (Deut. 16:3). Note that Shirat Hayam is also sung on the 7th day of Passover, as a memorial of the deliverance by God through the waters of the Sea of Reeds.

After their jubilation, the narrative resumes as God led the people away from the sea, into the desert of Sin (מִדְבַּר־סִין), a desolate region about midway to Mount Sinai. After traveling three days without finding any water, however, the people complained and God provided them with fresh water at Marah. Awhile later, the matzah the people had brought with them ran out and God tested their obedience by giving them "bread from heaven" (i.e., manna). The portion ends with the Amalekites' surprise attack of Israel at Rephidim, near Mount Sinai, and the introduction of Joshua as the leader of the army of Israel.

 

International Holocaust Remembrance Day


 

On January 27, 1945, the largest of the Nazi death camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland) was liberated by Soviet troops. In October 2005, the UN General Assembly designated this date as "International Holocaust Remembrance Day" (IHRD) to commemorate and honor the victims of the Nazi era. Note that the UN-sponsored date is not the same thing as Yom HaShoah, which occurs in the spring (Nisan 27).

The systematic genocide of the Jewish people is one of the most heinous and barbarous crimes in the history of humanity. Reflecting on the atrocities should lead each of us to be vigilant to protect the individual liberties of all people at the hands of the State.  Any political ideology or religious creed that elevates the interest of the "collective" over the sanctity of the individual is therefore inherently suspect.

Note: For more information about IHRD, see this page.

 

Tu B'Shevat - טו בשבט

The month of Shevat (שְׁבָט) is the eleventh month of the Jewish calendar counting from the month of Nisan (Zech. 1:7). On the Jewish civil calendar, however, Shevat is the fifth month (counting from the month of Tishri). This year Tu B'Shevat, or the 15th of Shevat, begins Tuesday, January 30th at sundown...

The Mishnah proclaims the 15th day of the month of Shevat (i.e., Tu B'Shevat) as the "New Year for the Trees," because originally this date was selected when tithes (ma'aser) from fruit trees were due to be given to the priests. Today Tu B'Shevat is observed throughout Israel as a sort of national "Arbor Day."  It is customary to eat various fruits and nuts from the Land of Israel and to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing during this time. Since the Torah alludes that human life is like "the tree of the field," i.e., כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה, Deut. 20:19), some of the sages mark Tu B'Shevat as sort of mystical holiday as well.




 

For more information about Tu B'Shevat, including basic instructions for performing your own Tu B'Shevat Seder, please see this page.

Blessing before Torah Study:

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Some terms:

  • Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as "parashat - name" (e.g., parashat Noach). For more information about weekly readings, click here.
     
  • Aliyot refer to a smaller sections of the weekly parashah that are assigned to people of the congregation for public reading during the Torah Reading service. In most congregations it is customary for the person "called up" to recite a blessing for the Torah before and after the assigned section is recited by the cantor. For Shabbat services, there are seven aliyot (and a concluding portion called a maftir). The person who is called to make aliyah is referred to as an oleh (olah, if female).
     
  • Maftir refers to the last Torah aliyah of the Torah chanting service (normally a brief repetition of the 7th aliyah, though on holidays the Maftir portion usually focuses on the Holiday as described in the Torah).  The person who recites the Maftir blessing also recites the blessing over the Haftarah portion.
     
  • Haftarah refers to an additional portion from the Nevi'im (Prophets) read after the weekly Torah portion. The person who made the maftir blessing also recites the blessing for the Haftarah, and may even read the Haftarah before the congregation.
     
  • Brit Chadashah refers to New Testament readings which are added to the traditional Torah Reading cycle. Often blessings over the Brit Chadashah are recited before and after the readings.
     
  • Mei Ketuvim refers to a portion read from the Ketuvim, or writings in the Tanakh. Readings from the Ketuvim are usually reserved for Jewish holidays at the synagogue.
     
  • Perek Yomi Tehillim refers to the daily portion of psalms (mizmorim) recited so that the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) is read through in a month. For a schedule, of daily Psalm readings, click here.
     
  • Gelilah refers to the tying up and covering the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) as an honor in the synagogue.
     
  • Divrei Torah ("words of Torah") refers to a commentary, a sermon, or devotional on the Torah portion of the week.

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