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Drawing Inspiration from the Prince of Egypt Print E-mail
Monday, 30 January 2023

You may remember the animated movie “The Prince of Egypt” which was released in 1999 and became a classic for those who love the story of the Exodus from Egypt. If you have never seen it or if it has been a while since you saw it last, I highly recommend it.

The movie does a pretty good job of illustrating the Book of Shmot. However, the film does differ from the Biblical text. For example, in the movie, Pharaoh’s wife, rather than his daughter, found Moshe in the basket. Tziporah, Moshe’s wife, rather than Aharon went with Moshe to meet with Pharaoh. Moshe was even Pharaoh’s best friend, until the day that Moshe requested “Let my people go.”

Aside from these discrepancies, there was a very important message in the movie presented in a song sung by Miriam, Tziopora, the Hebrew Children and the Hebrews: “When You Believe”:

Who knows what miracles you can achieve when you believe, somehow you will, you will when you believe.

The focal point of the song that really makes the movie is when the Hebrew Children sing part of Az Yashir (The Song of the Sea) in Hebrew as they are crossing the Sea of Reeds:

Ashira la-HaShem ki ga-oh ga-ah

I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously

Mi Chamocha ba’Eilim HaShem?

Who is like You, O Lord among the celestial?

Mi Kamocha ne-edar baKodesh?

Who is like You, majestic in holiness?

Nachita v’Chasdecha am zu ga-alta

In your love, you lead the people you redeemed

A-shira, a-shira, a-shira           

I will sing, I will sing, I will sing…

Az Yashir is a prayer that is recited every morning. It is read from the Torah on Parshat Beshalach and on the seventh day of Pesach. Because we are so familiar with it, we may forget the magnitude of the fact that it was sung by the Jewish people after they crossed the sea and were saved.

The movie does a great job of calling attention to this important song. The fact that it is sung in Hebrew makes an even greater impact.

Although the movie isn’t perfect, “When You Believe” can give us extra kavana (intent) when we recite Az Yashir. It also gives us a moment to reflect on two amazing artists who sang on the soundtrack and are no longer with us, Whitney Houston and Ofra Haza who are both listed as Rolling Stone’s top 200 singers of all time.

Miriam vs. Devora Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 January 2022

This Shabbat, Shabbat Shira (the Shabbat of Song) we find songs in the Torah reading (Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea, Shmot 15:1-21) and in the Haftara reading (Shirat Devora, Devora’s Song, Shoftim 5:1-31).

In the Torah reading, after Moshe sings the song of victory with the men, Miriam appears (Shmot 15:20-21):

Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels. And Miriam chanted for them:
Sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.

Rav Yisachar Yaakovson points out that in the Torah reading, Miriam has a secondary role. She is completing Moshe’s song, getting the women involved in praising God and playing instruments. Devora, on the other hand, in our Haftara, is at the center of the story and she leads the song. Devora was the only woman who united the roles of both prophetess and judge (Shoftim 4:4-5):

Devora, wife of Lapidot, was a prophetess; she led Israel at that time. She used to sit under the Palm of Devora, between Ramah and Beit-El, in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would come to her for decisions.

We see Devora’s prophecy in Shoftim 4:8-9:

Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; if not, I will not go.” “Very well, I will go with you,” she answered. “However, there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Devora went with Barak to Kedesh.

Devora’s prophecy came true. The hero of the war was Yael, who killed the enemy Sisera. The war was won by a woman.

While Miriam and Devora are described as prophetesses, Miriam’s prophecy is not spelled out in the Biblical text while Devora’s is very clear. Miriam may have been overshadowed by her brother Moshe, the greatest of all of the prophets. During the time that Devora served as a judge and prophetess she had no competition, none of the men at the time were capable leaders.

Did the women play instruments, sing and dance? Print E-mail
Friday, 14 February 2020

After Moshe and B’nai Yisrael sing “Az Yashir”, the Song of the Sea, we read about Miriam and the women (Shmot 15:20-21): “Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aharon, took the tof (drum) in her hand; and all of the women followed her with tupim uvimacholot (two types of drums). Miriam led them in the response: ‘Shiru (sing) to God for He is most high; horse and its rider He hurled into the sea.’”

According to Chizkuni, the women continued to sing the entire “Az Yashir” with Miriam, not just the first line.

Rabbi Saadya Gaon describes the two types of drums that the women used:

He translates tupim as difduf (drums that you hit by hand) and macholot as tavul (a bigger drum that you hit with wooden drumsticks).

We see the combination of tof  and machol listed with the other instruments used to praise God in Tehilim, Psalms 149:3 and 150:4 which we recite each morning: “Let them praise his name with machol, let them sing praises to him with tof and kinor (lyre)”, “Praise Him with tof and machol…”

In the tragic story of Yiftach’s daughter in Shoftim (Judges), after Yiftach defeats Amon, he makes a vow to sacrifice whatever emerges first from the doors of his house. In Shoftim 11:34 we read: “Yiftach arrived at Mitzpe, to his home and behold, his daughter was coming out to him bitupim uvimacholot…” Just like Miriam and the women, Yiftach’s daughter was celebrating the war victory by playing instruments.

Mitzudat Zion defines both tupim and macholot as instruments and he references Shmot 15:20. Radak, Ibn Ezra and Ibn Janah also define machol as an instrument.

As well, we see in Shmuel I, 18:6-7: “It happened that when the troops came back- when David returned from slaying the Philistine (Goliath)- the women from the towns of Israel came out to sing vhamacholot to greet King Shaul with tupim, with gladness and with cymbals. The rejoicing women called out, and said, Shaul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands.”

According to the Netziv, the song had many more stanzas that are not listed here and this one verse was just the refrain.

We see from here that the women were singers and drummers when they sang the victory songs after the difficult battles were fought.

Did the women also dance?

Another definition of machol is dance (machol is the word for dance used in Modern Hebrew today). Machol is the most used (thirteen times) out of the nine words that mean to dance in the Tanach.

Aside from the two verses from Tehilim, where machol is clearly referring to an instrument, the other verses above could refer to the women dancing or playing an instrument.

In addition, we see in Shir HaShitim (Song of Songs) 7:1 and at the end of the book of Shoftim that machol was a type of dance that the women used in the vineyards to attract a mate. In Shoftim (21:21) the children of Binyamin were commanded: “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; and see, and behold, if the daughters come out ‘lachul bamcholot’, to dance in the dances…” References to this dance are also made in the Mishna, Taanit 4:1-2.

The Biblical women were a talented group who sang, danced and played the drums after successful military victories.

May Israel be blessed with a strong successful army and may the talented citizens come out to cheer them on with song, dance and music.

Cloudy with a chance of manna Print E-mail
Saturday, 26 January 2019

Last night, residents of Jerusalem looked towards the sky in anticipation of the snow that was predicted by the forecasters. Young and old alike waited patiently to see what would come down. In the end, there was rain, hail, sleet and a little bit of snow in Jerusalem, just enough for a snowball fight. By the morning, it was all gone. Children of all ages were disappointed but what can we do? As Mark Twain once said “Everyone talks about the weather but nobody can do anything about it.” Certain things are in God’s hands.

Another thing that fell from the sky and melted was the manna in the desert.

When did B’nei Yisrael begin to receive the manna?

In Parshat Beshalach, B’nai Yisrael arrive at Eilim (Shmot 16:27) “Then they came to Eilim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms and they camped there near the water”. Rabbi Menachem Leibtag describes Eilim as Palm Springs, were you could find both palm trees and springs of water. Eilim was like a vacation in paradise. After Eilim, they arrive in Midbar Tzin, the real desert, located between Eilim and Sinai, a month after leaving Egypt and they begin to complain that they were brought to the desert to starve.

In Shmot 16:4, God said to Moshe, “Behold, I will make bread rain from heaven for you and the people shall go out and gather enough for each day, that I may test them to see if they will walk in the way of my teaching or not.”

Rashi describes the test as twofold: to see if they would leave any manna overnight (if they did it would become wormy and putrid) and to make sure that they had enough faith in God not to go out to collect on Shabbat.

The test according to Ramban was that B’nai Yisrael needed to rely solely on God for all of their food as there was no access to any other food in the desert aside from the manna and slav (quail) that God sent them.

According to Nechama Leibowitz, “The trial consists of living in continual expectation, in outright dependence on God, the same dependence that characterizes all men in eking their bread from the ground. But in his blindness man does not sense this, regarding himself as the producer of bread from the ground. On the other hand, the one who partakes of the ‘bread of heaven’ feels his dependence on the One who rains it down, much more intensely, and in spite of himself.”

Nechama Leibowitz continues, “The Israelites failed to withstand this test and rebelled against the continuous state of dependence when they said (Bamidbar 11:6) ‘But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all; we have nothing except the manna to look forward to.’”

In the Land of Israel, we rely on the rain to make sure that our crops will grow. Even when it does rain, there is no instant gratification as we still need to wait for the food. At the end of the day, it is the same story as with the manna, any way you slice it, all of our food comes from God.

In Israel, everything is different. Snow and rain are a big deal here. Every time they fall is a cause for celebration. Even the movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” has a different name, “Geshem shel Felafel”, “Raining Felafel.” Both movie titles could fit in well with the midrash in Shmot Raba 5:9 where Rabbi Yose ben Hanina states that the manna descended with a taste varying according to the needs of the individual Israelites.

Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Splitting of the Red Sea Print E-mail
Thursday, 25 January 2018

Guest Parsha Points by Joshua Halickman

Parshat BeShalach features the roots of Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club when B'nai Yisrael sing praise to God after the splitting of the Red Sea and celebrate the salvation of the Jewish People.

In Parshat Be’Shalach, B'nai Yisrael leave Egypt and arrive at the Red Sea as Pharaoh and his entire army have a change of heart and chase them down, seemingly cornering them against the water. However, God assures the people and Moshe splits the sea allowing B'nai Yisrael to walk through on dry land. Once on the other side, the water crashes down on the Egyptians saving B'nai Yisrael.

Moshe and Bnei Yisrael then sing “Az YaShir”, a song of praise recognizing the salvation afforded to them. One of the most famous phrases in the song is “Mi KaMocha Be’Elim, Hashem” (מי כמוך באלים ה׳) whose acronym spells out the Hebrew word Maccabi (מכבי). The loose translation of the phrase is “Who is like You among the heavenly powers?” Is there any power stronger than God? The answer of course is no. No one can be compared to God; a sign of power and strength.

In 1895 in the city of Constantinople, Jews were not allowed to participate in regular sports clubs and were forced to form one of their own. Using the acronym of Maccabi, the first Jewish Sports Club was formed eventually becoming Maccabi Jaffa in 1906 and then Maccabi Tel Aviv later on in that decade.

Maccabi Tel Aviv fans and supporters worldwide should reflect with pride on being part of this important and auspicious moment in the history of the Jewish People and know that with desire, power and strength we can all succeed both on and off of the field of play.

Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim,
Josh and Sharona Halickman

Josh Halickman, The Sports Rabbi moved to Israel in 2004 with his wife, Sharona and children , Dov and Moshe & has been hooked on Israeli sports ever since! Check out his website http://sportsrabbi.com/

Devora’s Trees Print E-mail
Friday, 10 February 2017

This Shabbat is Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song (where we read Az Yashir, the Song of the Sea and the Haftara is Shirat Devora, Devora’s song). This Shabbat we also celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, the birthday of the trees.

What is the connection between the story of Devora and the holiday of Tu B’Svat?

In the book of Shoftim (Judges) 4:4-5 we read: “Devora was a prophetess, a fiery woman; she judged Israel at that time. She would sit under the date palm of Devora, between Rama and Beit-El on Mt. Ephraim and B’nai Yisrael would go up to her for judgment.”

Why was the tree called Tomer Devora, the Date Palm of Devora?

According to Rashi, Devora was a wealthy woman who owned date palms in Jericho, vineyards in Rama, olive groves in Beit El as well as a sown grain field in Mt. Ephraim.

What is the significance of the date palm?

We learn in Bamidbar Raba 3:1: “No part of the palm tree is wasted: every part may be used: Its dates are for eating, its lulav branches are for waving in praise on Sukkot, its dried up branches are thatch for roofing (including schach for the sukka), its fibers are for ropes, its leaves for sieves and its planed trunks for house beams.

In 2008, a 2000 year old date pit was found in Israel and planted in Kibbutz Ketura. Today the tree is over ten feet tall and can make dates. We see from here that even the pits can be recycled 2000 years later.

Tu B’Shvat is our opportunity to appreciate the trees in Israel including the date palm, olive tree and grapevines which Devora the prophetess owned.

Those who are not in Israel can buy dates, olive oil and wine from Israel, all exported in large quantities throughout the world.

Fighting with Onions Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Sponsored by Esther Dukovny

in honor of her Hebrew and English Birthdays

which coincide on Yud-Alef Shvat, January 21


One of the most popular songs at the Passover Seder is Dayenu (it would have been enough for us). Many of the concepts in Dayenu come from Parshat Beshalach:


If God had only given us their treasures and had not divided the sea- Dayenu

If God had only divided the sea and had not led us across on dry land- Dayenu

If God had only led us across on dry land and had not drowned the Egyptians- Dayenu

If God had only drowned the Egyptians and had not taken care of us in the desert for forty years- Dayenu

If God had only taken care of us in the desert for forty years and had not fed us the manna- Dayenu

If God had only fed us the manna and had not given u s the Shabbat-Dayenu


There is a custom among Persian Jews to hit each other with green onions when they sing “Dayenu” after the words: “If God had only taken care of us in the desert for forty years and had not fed us the manna.”


The Haggada called A Different Night suggests that this custom may be based on the fact that B’nai Yisrael complained about the manna and said (Bamidbar 11:5-6) “We remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. Now our bodies are withered. There is nothing at all, nothing but this manna to look at.”


By hitting each other with onions, the participants at the Seder are showing how ashamed they are that B’nai Yisrael were so ungrateful and unappreciative when they were in the wilderness. Instead of being happy that they had something to eat, they were yearning for the food in Egypt, forgetting about the fact that when they were slaves they were hardly given any time to eat.


Dayenu is the part of the Seder when we should think about how grateful we should be for what we do have and not dwell on what we don’t. 

How Is Regina Spektor Connected to the Women Who Took Instruments Out of Egypt? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 January 2015

In Parshat Beshalach, Shmot 15:20 after the men sang “Az Yashir”, The Song of the Sea we read: “Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aharon, took the drum in her hand; and all the women followed her with drums and dancing.”


Rashi quotes the Mechilta to explain where the drums came from: “The righteous women of that generation were sure that God would perform miracles for them so they took drums out of Egypt.”


When the Jews were finally able to leave Russia, many were not able to carry their large instruments with them. However, their skills and love of music remained with them.


Many Israelis who made aliya from Russia are now music teachers in Israel’s elementary schools and have greatly enhanced the level of culture in Israel.


In 1989, the Spektors, a family of talented musicians arrived from Russia and joined my grandmother’s shul in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, NY. My grandmother, Reva Margolin, played the violin and appreciated music so she was very excited to meet this family along with many other Russian Jews who joined the community. 


When I was in a teen theater group in Riverdale, we had the honor of having Bella, the mother, accompany us on the piano during one of our performances.


Although Bella could not bring over her Petrof piano from Russia, Bella brought her talent with her as did her nine year old daughter, Regina.


When the Spektor’s arrived in New York, the Riverdale Jewish Community Council’s Russian Resettlement Program provided them with whatever they needed including furniture and enrollment in the Jewish day school, SAR Academy. The only thing that they were missing was a piano.


Adinah Kranzler who ran a summer art camp donated a piano that was no longer needed to the Spektors. A Long Island City moving company volunteered to deliver the piano carrying it up more than three flights of stairs.


Regina Spektor is now a famous singer-songwriter and record producer yet she still never got rid of the old piano.


In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on November 8, 2013, Regina commented: “I always feel like the instruments we have played are our friends…you don’t abandon old people or old pets, so why would you abandon an old friend you made music with?” 


Did B’nai Yisrael Have Weapons When They Left Egypt? Print E-mail
Monday, 13 January 2014

In Beshalach, Shmot 13:18 we read: “God led the people round-about by the way of the Reed Sea Desert and B’nai Yisrael went up “chamushim” from the land of Egypt.


According to Rashi, the word chamushim means armed. Because God took them on the round-about route in the desert, He caused them to go up armed. For had He taken them by the way of settled areas they would not have armed themselves with all of their needs, but rather as one traveling from place to place, whose intention it was to obtain what he needs there. But when one sets out into the wilderness, one must prepare for all his needs. This pasuk was necessary so that later during the wars of Amalek, Sichon, Og and Midian nobody would wonder where B’nai Yisrael obtained the weapons that enabled them to defeat their enemies by the sword.


In Yehoshua 1:14 the word chamushim is also used” “…You shall pass before your brothers armed (chamushim), all the mighty men of valor and help them.”


According to Eben Ezra, chumashim refers to the belted swords that they were wearing. This shows that they did not leave Egypt as fleeing slaves, but rather as soldiers with weapons.


We learn from here that even though God didn’t want B’nai Yisrael to encounter the battle field right away and therefore He didn’t take them straight through the land of the Philistines (where the Gaza strip is today) there would inevitably be battles that would need to be fought. We already see at the end of Parsha Beshalach that the nation of Amalek attacked them.


B’nai Yisrael miraculously won the war with Amalek which was fought spiritually by God and Moshe as well as physically “by the edge of the sword”.


In Israel, we constantly see soldiers and civilians who are “chamushim” with a gun in their pocket or slung over their soldier. We know that on the one hand God is watching over us, but on the other hand we must be prepared to protect ourselves if necessary.


May God watch over and protect our soldiers who watch over and protect the residents of Israel.

Amud HaAnan, the Pillar of Cloud Print E-mail
Friday, 25 January 2013


When reading Parshat Beshalach, we come across a term that we have become very familiar with over the last few months: Amud HaAnan, the Pillar of Cloud.


In Shmot 14:19-20 we read: “The angel of Elokim moved from its position when it traveled in front of the camp of Israel, and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and it stood behind them. It came between the Egyptian camp and the camp of Israel. There was the cloud and darkness for the Egyptians and the pillar of fire lit up the night. The camps did not approach each other all that night.”


Rashi states: To separate the Egyptian camp from the Israelite camp and to receive the arrows and projectiles of the Egyptians.


According to Siftei Chachamim, Rabbi Shabsi Bass Meshorer, The movement of the angel of Elokim and the movement of the pillar of cloud are described here as two separate events. First, upon arrival of the pursuing Egyptians, the angel of Elokim went from the head if the Israelites to their rear to protect them from the Egyptians. Later toward evening, when the pillar of fire would take over for the night, the pillar of cloud went from the front, to the rear of the Israelites in order to block the great illumination of the pillar of fire from the Egyptians.


Just as the “Amud HaAnan”, pillar of cloud, protected the Israelites from the arrows and projectiles of the Egyptians, so too did the IDF with God’s help,  in Operation “Amud Anan” hope to protect Israeli citizens from the rockets being shot from Gaza.


Many miracles took place the week of November 14, 2012. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted about 421 rockets, 142 rockets fell on Gaza itself and 875 rockets fell in open areas.


The Operation Amud Anan was translated as “Operation Pillar of Defense” in order to make sure that the world knew that Israel was fighting for the sake of self defense.


On the other hand, the al Quassam Brigades had no problem calling their rocket attacks in Israeli cities and towns “hijarat sajil”, Operation Stones of Baked Clay.


May we see a true peace in the Land of Israel.

Didn’t Pharaoh Have Servants to Prepare His Chariot? Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 February 2012

When Pharaoh sent away B’nai Yisrael, it was under the premise that they would pray in the desert for three days and then return to Egypt.


In Shmot, 14:5 we read: “The king of Egypt was told that the people had fled. Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart regarding the people, and they said, ‘What have we done? How did we release Israel from serving us?’”


Siftei Chachamim asks: If Pharaoh was the one who sent them away then why did he need to be told?


According to Rashi, Pharaoh sent officials with them. Once they reached the point of three days journey which had been fixed for them to go and to return and the officials saw that they were not returning to Egypt, they came on the fourth day and told Pharaoh. On the fifth and sixth days they pursued them, and on the night of the seventh they went down into the sea. In the morning they sang shira, “Az Yahir”, the song of praise at the crossing of the Reed Sea. That day was the seventh day of Pesach. For this reason we read the shira on the seventh day of Pesach.


In the next pasuk we read: “He (Pharaoh) harnessed his chariot and he took his people with him.”


Rashi quoting the Mechilta says that Pharaoh harnessed his chariot by himself.


Breisheet Raba asks: Didn’t he have enough servants to harness his chariot?


The Mechilta explains: He did it with his own hand. Kings usually stand by, while others prepare their chariot and harness it. Pharaoh the wicked on the other hand prepared and harnessed his own chariot. As soon as the courtiers saw what he was doing they followed suit.


We can see from here that Pharaoh never intended to free the Jewish people from slavery and was going to try to do everything in his power to bring them back. Even though he saw all of the miracles that God preformed, he still thought of himself as a God and actively went to bring them back. Pharaoh abused his power.


The Mechilta points out that Avraham saddled his donkey on his own and Yosef made ready his own chariot. They too had servants who could have taken care of it for them but Avraham wanted to prepare for the Akeda (Binding of Isaac) on his own and Yosef wanted to put the extra effort into honoring his father. Avraham and Yosef rushed to do good while Pharaoh and Bilaam (another enemy of Israel) rushed to do evil.



Devora the Prophetess Print E-mail
Friday, 14 January 2011

The Haftarah for Parshat Beshalach is the story of Devora the Prophetess from the Book of Shoftim, Judges, Chapters 4-5.


When I hear the name Devora, a few images come to mind: Devora the Prophetess, The excellent play being performed by the women in Gush Etzion called "Judge! The Story of Devora", "Devorah’s Song" by Debbie Friedman z”l (who passed away this week) which tells the story of the Haftarah as well as my grandmother Devora bat Feiga, Dorothy DuBrow z”l who passed away five years ago.


In Judges 4:4 we read: “Now Devora was Isha Neviah, a woman prophetess, Eshet Lapidot, the wife of Lapidot, she judged Israel at the time. And she sat under the palm tree of Devorah…And the children of Israel came to her for judgment.”


My grandmother, Devora was in many ways a prophetess as well. She looked to the future to see what would be best for her family and for the Jewish people. She sent my mother to Jewish day school and High school as well as to Jewish camps and Stern College way before it was the common thing to do knowing that the Jewish future will be built through Jewish education.


According to the commentary Metzudat David, the term Eshet Lapidot means Eshet Chayil, a woman of valor who is quick with her actions like a lapid, a fiery torch. My grandmother was always quick to help others and give Tzedaka to those in need. She was a true Eshet Chayail, woman of valor and she received the Eshet chayil award from numerous organizations and institutions.


My grandmother was also in many ways a judge. Just as everyone came to Devora the prophetess with their problems and disputes to settle, so too did each and every member of the family come to my grandmother in New Haven with different problems, issues or to simply ask advice. The last 19 years of her life she lived in Florida where she continued to give advice, literally under the palm trees.


At the end of Judges Chapter 5 it says: “And the land was quiet for 40 years”.


Because of Devora the Prophetess there was peace in the Land of Israel. No matter what the situation was, my grandmother tried to make things as peaceful as possible. She reached out to people of all backgrounds and religious affiliations and she made friends wherever she went.


In Biblical days, it was an exception to have a woman in a position of leadership who served in such an important role. My grandmother was in the workforce way before most women and was greatly respected in the community.


My grandmother, Devora is truly missed but her teachings live on through her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren including three great grandchildren who are named after her as well as the students of Midreshet Devora which was founded in her memory.

Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full? Print E-mail
Friday, 06 February 2009

In the beginning of Parshat Beshalach (Shmot 13:17), Pharaoh finally allowed B’nai Yisrael to leave Egypt. Shortly after they left, Pharaoh changed his mind and began to chase after them.


In Shmot 14:10-11 we read: “And then Pharaoh drew near and B’nai Yisrael lifted up their eyes and behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and B’nai Yisrael were very much afraid and they cried out to God. They said to Moshe, were there no graves in Egypt that you had to take us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt this way with us, to carry us out of Egypt?”


Ramban finds it difficult that the people were crying out to God for help, yet at the same time were protesting against deliverance.


Ramban explains that there were conflicting groups, some were crying out to God for help while others denied the deliverance. There were those who saw the glass half empty and those who saw the glass half full.


Moshe responded positively: 14:13: “Fear not, stand still and see the salvation of God”.


God then split the sea and the Jewish people were able to safely get across while the Egyptians were drowned. At that point the Torah says 14:31: “And Yisrael saw the great work which God did to Egypt and the people feared God and believed in God and his servant Moshe”. At that point everyone was positive and the whole nation sang “Az Yashir”, “The Song of the Sea” thanking God for their deliverance.


Unfortunately, instead of remembering all of the miracles that God performed for them, throughout the Parsha we find more pessimists complaining that they are afraid that they will have no water, no food and no meat. Each time God comes through for them and provides for all of their needs.


The ball is in our court to live our lives as optimists, always looking for the good or as pessimists, always looking for something to complain about. Each of us has the choice to view the glass as being half empty or half full.

No Good Deed Ever Goes to Waste Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 January 2008

Mazel Tov to Jennifer, Kevin, Tyler and Bradley Leopold on the birth of Spencer Hayden.

Sponsored by Sharona, Josh, Dov, Moshe and Yehuda Halickman

Once Pharaoh realized that B’nai Yisrael would not be returning, he decided to chase them and attempt to bring them back. In Shmot 14:6, we see how anxious Pharaoh was: “He (Pharaoh) harnessed his chariot and he took his people with him”.

Rashi comments that Pharaoh actually harnessed his own chariot instead of relying on a servant. The Mechilta elaborates: “He did it with his own hand. Kings usually stand by while others prepare their chariot and harness it. Pharaoh the wicked prepared and harnessed his own chariot. As soon as his courtiers saw what he was doing they followed suit.”

Similar wording is used in Breisheet 46:29 to describe how Yoseph prepared to meet Yaakov when he arrived in Egypt, “Yoseph harnessed his chariot and went to meet Yisrael his father in Goshen”. Rashi again brings the Mechilta which teaches that “Yoseph prepared his chariot himself out of eagerness to pay his respects to his father.”

Mechilta adds: “Let the making ready of Yoseph to go and meet his father cancel out the making ready of Pharaoh the wicked, who went to pursue Israel”.

Because Yoseph rushed to honor his father, many generations later Pharaoh who rushed to destroy the Jewish people was stopped in his tracks.

Nechama Leibowitz points out that no good deed ever goes to waste. The power of love is destined to overcome the power of hate.

Each good deed that we can do will have an impact later on.

One day a righteous man named Choni saw an elderly man planting a carob tree. Choni said to him: “Foolish man, do you think that you will live to eat and enjoy the fruit of the tree that you plant today? It will not bear fruit for many, many years.” The man replied: “I found trees in the world when I was born. My grandparents planted them for me. Now I am planting for my grandchildren.” Honi sat down in the shade of a nearby tree for a short nap. The short nap ended up lasting 70 years! When he awoke, he was surprised to see a full-grown carob tree where the elderly man had planted a seed just before Choni fell asleep. An elderly man was picking its fruit. “Are you the man who planted this tree?” asked Choni. The man replied “No, my grandfather planted it for me.” So Choni learned the importance of planting seeds for future generations. Our Torah is called Etz Chayim, the tree of life. Jews in every community plant seeds for future generations by observing the mitzvoth and passing on traditions.

Even in the toughest of times we must continue to perform acts of kindness and sow the seeds for future generations.

Hoping for a Better Tomorrow Print E-mail
Wednesday, 08 February 2006

In Parshat Beshalach, we read about how B'nei Yisrael, The Jewish People were saved from the Egyptians after the splitting of the Red Sea. In appreciation, B'nei Yisrael sang Az Yashir, the Song of the Sea (which we recite each morning during the Shacharit service). In Shmot 15:20-21 we read "Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aaron took the drum in her hand; and all of the women followed her with drums and dancing. Miriam led them in the response: "Ashira LaHashem ki gaoh gaah.", "Sing to God for He is most high; horse and its rider He hurled into the sea."

Rashi asks the following three questions:

1. When was it that Miriam prophesied?

2. Where did the women get the drums?

3. How much of the song did Miriam sing and who did she sing it with?

Rashi answers:

1. When was it that Miriam prophesied?

Miraim prophesied when she was Aaron's sister, before Moshe was born. Her prophecy is recounted in the Gemara in Sotah 12b-13a: Miriam said: "My mother is destined to give birth to a son who will save the Jewish people." Once Moshe was born, the entire house was filled with light and her father Amram kissed her on her head. He said: "My daughter, your prophecy has been fulfilled." But once they put Moshe in the (basket in the) river, her father tapped her on the head and said to her, "Where is your prophecy now?" Miriam watched the basket with Moshe in it carefully to see if her prophecy would be fulfilled. Eighty years later, Miriam stood with all of the Jewish people whom her brother Moshe had just taken out of Egypt. Her mother did in fact give birth to a son who saved the Jewish people.

2. Where did the women get their drums?

The righteous women of that generation were sure that God would perform miracles for them so they took drums out of Egypt.

3. How much of the song did Miriam sing and who did she sing it with?

According to Mechilta, Miriam sang the whole song responsively with the women just as Moshe sang the whole song responsively with the men.

We can learn a lot from Miriam and the women of her generation:

  1. Both men and women have the power to be prophets.
  2. Even in the toughest times we must look ahead to a brighter future and plan accordingly.
  3. Our prayers can be enhanced with the use of song, dance, instruments or a combination of them all.

Let's hope and pray for a brighter tomorrow in the Land of Israel and throughout the world.