I. The greater miracle
1. ‘The water return before morning to its strength.’ (Shemos* 14.26) The following story occurred with the Baal Shem Tov. There was a person who had learned books of philosophy and science. He wanted to go to the Baal Shem Tov with a serious question he had. According to his understanding from his studies the sea had to open for the children of Israel at that specific time. This was all natural and not anything special. If this was the case why do we say it is such a great miracle. For a number of days he went around with this question bothering him. Finally he traveled to the Baal Shem Tov. When he arrived, even before he could ask his question to the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal Shem Tov went to the Beis HaKnesses*. He asked that all the people in the city be gathered together there. The Baal Shem Tov intended to give a talk to all the people. The Baal Shem Tov stated that there were fools and Apikorsim* who ask why we consider the splitting of the sea such a great miracle since it was the nature of the water to do as it did at that time. These people, who ask this, have eyes but they are really blind. The Torah* says, ‘In the beginning G-d created.’ ‘G-d’ [Heb elokim] has the gematria* as the word ‘nature’ [Heb. HaTeivah] Nature itself was part of the creation by HaShem*. This is what the Midrash* says, “‘to its strength.’ This refers to the condition that HaShem made with sea when he created it.” [The condition was that it should split before the children of Israel.] From this we see that HaShem made the nature of the water that it should split before the children of Israel. Therefore the miracle is even greater. This is because in the beginning of the creation HaShem made the sea should have this nature for the sake of the children of Israel. [As Chazal* say,] “‘In the beginning’ [Heb. bereishis] means because of Israel who are called ‘first'” [Heb. bereishis] he created the world and nature. If it were not that Israel needed this miracle He would not have created the nature of the sea to act in this way. (p. 319 sefer Baal Shem Tov, teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.) * * * II. Purpose of prayer 2. ‘Stand fast and see the salvation of HaShem.’ (Shemos 14.13) It appears to me that we can explain this verse according to the verse, ‘And for me my prayer is for You.’ The meaning [of this verse] is that when one prays for his needs, the main purpose should be for HaShem’s sake. This is because ‘In all their suffering He suffers.’ The soul is a portion of G-d above. When a person has some trouble, [because of this connection] it reaches to HaShem (as it were.) Therefore the main purpose of prayer should be to correct what is Above. A prayer such as this will have no opposition. Afterwards [from Above] there will flow here below abundant blessings, and he will have relief from his troubles. On the other hand. If he only prays for his own needs. Then his prayers will be opposed above. It will be held back from being heard. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘And for me, my prayer is for You HaShem.’ The main prayer that I have is for your great Name. Therefore I know that with certainty it is ‘at an opportune time.’ Who [among the angels] would dare to speak against such a prayer. After this the verse says, ‘G-d’ [Heb. elokim] which refers to the midah* of stern judgement. ‘With your great mercy you will hear me.’ Even His midah of judgement is turned over to mercy. Because ‘In truth You will save.’ Because the truth is that it is a salvation of HaShem. When a person is helped it is as if a salvation came to HaShem Himself. [This is because the person’s soul is attached to HaShem.] This is then the meaning of the verse. ‘Stand fast and see the salvation of HaShem, that He will do for you.’ This means as I said above. What He does for you causes a salvation for HaShem. The first letters of the words ‘That he will do for you.’ spells out the word ‘For Him.’ That is because the main salvation that we are waiting for is when Moshiach* should come, speedily and in our days. (p. 11 sefer Divrei Tzaddikim teachings of Rebbe* Berish of Ashpetzeen) * * * III. Tshuva* 3. ‘And it will be on the sixth day when they prepare what they will bring it will be double what they pick each day.’ (Shemos 16.5) There are four times when a person needs to examine his actions and do tshuva to HaShem. 1. Every night 2. The day before Shabbos 3. The day before the New Month 4. Yom Kippur. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘And it will be on the sixth day when they prepare what they will bring.’ One needs to correct his actions and examine what he is bringing, from the whole week, the day before Shabbos. ‘And it will be double.’ The word ‘double’ [Heb. Mishnah] has the same letters as the word ‘nashama*’ By doing this [i.e. examining his actions] he will merit to receive an extra soul on the Shabbos. ‘What [Heb. al].’ This word is similar to the word ‘raised up.’ [Heb. maalah] This means that there is a great ‘raising up’ [of the person because of his actions.] ‘They pick each day.’ He should see to it that he does tshuva each day, and gathers mitzvos* and good deeds. He should do them [each day] and not just wait for the day before Shabbos. (p. 122 sefer Tzemach Tzaddik teachings of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Viznitz.) * * * IV. Where is HaShem? 4. ‘Is HaShem amongst us or not? And Amalek came.’ (Shemos 17.7-8) The meaning is that because they had doubts as to whether HaShem was with them or not, Amalek, which has the same gematria as ‘doubt’, [Heb. safek] came to them [to make war.] Another meaning is: ‘Is HaShem amongst us?’ If you want to know if HaShem is with you. ‘Or not.’ You should see if you are on the level of ‘ayan.’ [lit. nothingness. You should examine and see if] you have any arrogance. For if you do, then it is certain that He is not with you. Because [as Chazal teach HaShem says with regards to the one who is arrogant,] ‘Me and him are not able to reside in the same place.’ (p. 122 sefer Tzemach Tzaddik teachings of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Viznitz.) * * * V. HaShem’s greatness. 5. ‘He is exceedingly exalted’ (Shemos 14.13) The greatness of G-d is not possible for us to comprehend. We are only able to comprehend that he is above all that we can comprehend. That is the meaning of ‘He is exceedingly exalted.’ All of our exaltations and the greatness we can ascribe to Him is only to say that he is greater, far above our comprehension. (p. 80 sefer Sefas
Emes teachings of Rebbe Yehudah Aryah Leib of Ger.)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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