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Dvar Torah for Parshat Beshalach

by Ozer Bergman

Dvar Torah for Parshat Beshalach

Based on Likutey Halakhot, Bekhor Beheimah Tehorah 4

“On the six weekdays you will gather [manna], but on the seventh day, Shabbat, there won’t be any” (Exodus 16:26).

The holy Zohar (2:88a) asks, “If there is no food to be found on Shabbat, in what way is Shabbat blessed (Genesis 2:3)?” It answers, “All blessings, supernal and ordinary, depend upon Shabbat.”

Last Shabbat, as I was reading this passage from the holy Zohar*, it occurred to me that Shabbat is much like the crippled beggars in Rebbe Nachman’s story “The Seven Beggars” (in Rabbi Nachman’s Stories). Each one is lacking a physical ability (and in some cases, limbs), but nonetheless possesses a superpower, specifically in regard to that which he seems to be missing.

On Shabbat, we Jews are forbidden to perform not only the 39 melakhot, the broad categories of creative acts (by which we humans exercise control over the world), but a whole spectrum of Rabbinic injunctions ones as well. As a result, there may be times when we will feel—or actually be—crippled in our ability to address genuine needs, material, emotional or spiritual. Feeling or being crippled by keeping Shabbat when we have to meet a need makes us ask: In what way is Shabbat blessed?

In order for the holy Zohar’s answer—that all blessings depend on Shabbat—to work for us, we must have two traits that work in tandem, bitachon and yirah. Bitachon means trust. What does yirah mean? Literally, yirah means fear. Now, the word “fear,” when found in chassidishe and musar seforim (Jewish devotional works), is grossly misunderstood. This is not a new phenomenon. It dates back at least a few hundred years. First, let’s mention some proper understandings of yirah/fear. In these works, fear can mean the awe of God, or reverence for talmidei chakhamim (Torah sages), tzaddikim and holy places or sacred objects. It can mean the subliminal dread of having to ultimately meet our Maker because we know, subliminally, that we are woefully unprepared for that meeting. Yirah in these works can also mean caution in regard to one’s thought, speech and/or behavior.

Yirah does not mean any sort of crippling fear or neurosis.** Many of us become frightened by the warnings given or the consequences delineated in our holy works.*** One’s yetzer hara, misguided thinking, may disable him by dragging him down into despair. or worse, atheism. The tzaddikim teach us that when learning about such possible dire consequences, the key concept to keep in mind is that gold is more valuable than silver.

Kabbalah aligns kindness with the metal silver, and justice/judgment/severity with gold. Gifts and rewards are expressions of kindness. Being forewarned of danger, instructed on how to avoid it and reprimanded when we don’t, is a greater kindness. The even greater kindness in having a dose of yirah offered to us are the following subtle messages. One: God cares enough about you to teach to mind your ways. Two: you can mind yourself and change for the better, no matter how poor your current ways are.

This is where the trust comes in. If one doesn’t have trust, one doesn’t think that God cares about him and for him, then one’s yirah is defective. For example, in regards to manna (and other sorts of income) if one doesn’t have trust in God that it will fall tomorrow, one will attempt to hoard it, even though God said not to (Exodus 16:19).**** Worse, he may ignore the warnings and reprimands and desecrate Shabbat in attempt to find manna that isn’t there (ibid. v.26).

So, although the Shabbat laws may make Shabbat appear “crippled” or penniless to us, they belie a huge well of trust and positive-yirah that she has to offer us. The more we develop these tandem traits, which are the vessels for receiving blessing of every sort (not only livelihood), the more the blessings will flow. As Rebbe Nachman says, Shabbat gives physical life as well (The Aleph-Bet Book, “Charity” B:2). Amen.

 gutn Shabbos!

Shabbat Shalom!

 Copyright 2010 Breslov Research Institute

*When chassidim talk to one another and refer to the holy Zohar, they usually call it “der heilige Zohar hakodesh,” which literally means “the holy holy-Zohar.” So please excuse me if I’m repetitive; at least I’m not redundant (I hope).

 **Consider the following. With healthy yirah-caution, one can do what’s necessary to drive a car, like check the rear-view mirror when changing lanes. If, God forbid, the yirah degrades to obsessive fear, please don’t get behind the wheel!

 ***Like being tossed back and forth between the Hell of Fire (for doing the wrong things over-excitedly) and the Hell of Snow (for doing the right things under-excitedly). There are worse things.

****What about having a savings account? It’s certainly kosher to have one, and generally a wise thing. Anecdotically, the Baal Shem Tov never kept money in his house overnight. Rebbe Nachman said although such a level of trust is very great, to have money but trust in God—and not the money—is an even greater level.

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