Parshat Bshallach: Exodus 13:17-17:16; Judges 4:4-5:31
The Jews leave Egypt and cross the sea. After the crossing, Moshe and Miriam led the Jewish people in a song of praise known as the Song by the Sea. It is written that one who joyfully recites the song daily is granted spiritual and physical health, intellectual clarity, forgiveness of wrongdoing and a general well-being.
It is understood that the Jews achieved a clarity of mind while crossing the sea; they were able to point to Hashem and say, “This is my God and I will glorify Him.” We recite the song and achieve the same clarity. Having achieved it, we now enter a spiritual state in which sins are forgiven. The Baal Shem Tov emphasizes that the singing must be with joy, which breaks through all boundaries.
Once our minds are in harmony with Hashem’s reality and we achieve this state of mindfulness, then all our foreign thoughts are blocked. We can experience the world as it will be in the time of Moshiach.
To illustrate the point, let me recount the following story, which I heard from Reb Zalman Posner, the late shaliach from Nashville, Tenn.
“I was 14 when the yeshivah started accepting young boys. We were about a dozen in two groups, my brother’s and mine. We were the only ones from ‘out-of-town’ (Chicago). Before going home for Pesach, Laibl and I had a private audience with the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. When the he asked us how long it took to get home, I told him 24 hours. ‘Where will you daven?’ ‘On the bus.’ ‘And tefillin?’ he asked, with a bit of surprise, I think. He also asked if it would be warm on the bus.
“The following Passover, when we went in again for an audience, he asked, ‘With what are you going home?’ Remembering last year’s question very well, I confidently answered, ‘With the bus.’ ‘I’m not asking that. I’m asking with what are you going home? What are you taking with you? What did you add in Torah during the past six months since I saw you last?’ I just stood there for several eternities while the Rebbe stared down at his desk, waiting for me to answer. Finally, mercifully, the Rebbe spoke. ‘I am not asking for you to answer; but you must ask yourself from time to time, ‘What have I added in making the world a better place?’”
Rabbi Herschel Finman is co-director (with his wife, Chana) of Jewish Ferndale and host of “The Jewish Hour” radio son WLQV 1500 AM – Sundays 11-noon; contact