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Torah Sparks

PARASHAT B'SHALLAH - TU B'SHEVAT, 5763
January 18, 2003 - 5763

Annual Cycle: Exodus 13:17-17:16 (Hertz, p. 265; Etz Hayim, p. 399)
Triennial Cycle II: Exodus 14:15 - 16:10 (Hertz, p. 268; Etz Hayim, p. 403)
Haftarah: Judges 4:4 - 5:31 (Hertz, p. 281; Etz Hayim, p. 424)

Prepared by Rabbi Lee Buckman
Head of School, Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit

Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Torah Portion Summary

(13:17-22) The beginning of the Exodus, and its route through the desert. The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.

(14:1-14) The Egyptians pursue the Israelites and catch up to them at the shore of the sea. The Israelites panic, and Moses reassures them.

(14:15-18) God tells Moses that He will save Israel; they will cross the sea on dry land.

(14:19-25) The splitting of the sea. The Israelites pass through safely. The Egyptians pursue them into the sea.

(14:26-31) At God's command, Moses stretches his hand forth over the sea; its waters close up again, and the pursuing Egyptians are drowned.

(15:1-21) The Song at the Sea, sung to God in praise and thanksgiving.

(15:22-26) The continuation of the journey; the bitter waters at Marah.

(15:27-16:36) The encampment at Elim; God feeds the Israelites with manna and quail.

(17:1-7) The miracle of the water from the rock.

(17:8-16) The war against Amalek, the archetype of the enemies of Israel.

Discussion Theme: Glorifying God

"The Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord. They said: 'I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and drive He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and might; He is become my deliverance. This is my God and I will glorify Him; The God of my father and I will exalt Him'" (Exodus 15:1-2)

  1. This is my God and I will glorify Him (ve-anvehu). From the root "naveh," a resting place: I will offer myself to be His home. "My whole existence and life shall be a Temple of his glorification, the 'home' of His revelation; this is the natural consequence of Him being my God. Thus, 'I will be a place unto Him,' or 'by my whole life I will prepare a place for Him, of which He will gladly say, 'And I will dwell among them.'" (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)
  2. We have Bibles in our hotels but do we have those teachings in our hearts? (Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel)
  3. This is my God and I will glorify Him (ve-anvehu). From the root "naveh," a habitation and dwelling: Within me and in the deepest parts of my being, I will establish a habitation and a dwelling place for God. (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk)
  4. This is my God and I will glorify Him (ve-anvehu). From the root "noi," beauty: I will speak of God's beauty and praise to all who live in the world. For example, when the nations will ask Israel, 'How is your beloved different from any other beloved?', Israel will reply: 'My beloved is white and ruddy.' (Rashi)
  5. This is my God and I will glorify Him (ve-anvehu). From the root, "na-eh," beautiful: I shall beautify God's commandments before Him by serving God with a beautiful sukkah, a beautiful shofar. (Talmud: Shabbat 133b)
  6. "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a yearling male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats." (Exodus 12:5) "A defective gift is an insult to the recipient; hence, the harmony between the devotee and his God would be impaired by such a donation. The physical perfection of the sacrificial animal is therefore repeatedly demanded in the sacrificial regulations. An extension of this principle is the rabbinic precept of hiddur mitzvah, the obligation to perform an act designated a mitzvah in the most elegant and choice manner. (Nachum Sarna)
  7. Abba Shaul says: This is my God and I will glorify Him (ve-anvehu). From the combination "ani" (I) "vhu" (and He): This is my God and I shall be like Him; just as God is compassionate and loving, so must I be compassionate and loving.

Sparks for Reflection

What is it about the idea of "glorifying" God that led commentators to go beyond the simple meaning of the original and develop these more metaphorical interpretations of the verse? How do we recognize God's role in the world and not be self-conscious or embarrassed about articulating that role, as Rashi suggests we should? How do we build a life so that God will dwell in our midst? What does it mean to make our lives a "temple" in which God will dwell?


 
 
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