Monday, January 21, 2008

Parshas Bishalach - "Who's the Conductor?"

Over the past week I have had the Privilege along with a group from Yeshiva University to learn about the halchakic, social, economical, and political aspects of Shmitta while interacting with Israeli society.

A side aspect of the trip has also been dedicated to placing an emphasis on Community service. While on one of our community service trips, I found a Parsha sefer that was written by a Rav from Kfar Roeh. I think that the following dvar Torah will prove to be a meaningful lesson in life as well as lend me the opportunity to reflect a bit about the Shmitta trip.

14:10 “Pharoah approached; the Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold!… Israel was very frightened; the children of Israel cried out to Hashem”

14:13 “Moshe said to the people, “Do not fear…”

It seems that the world as we know it today is filled with worries. An entire psychological language has been instituted, dedicated strictly to various anxieties that people have developed. Words like claustrophobia and agoraphobia have surfaced to describe these fears in short terms.

University studies have shown that 4 out of every 5 people have had anxiety attacks. 40% of these people have these attacks seemingly baselessly and 30% worry about things that they have no control over.

To express this on a more personal level, a story is told about a young girl who was calmly and rather peculiarly sitting alone on a train. Noticing the abnormality of the situation, one of the ticket collectors approached her and asked, “little girl, you are so young and inexperienced on the railways but you nonetheless look so calm and composed, how are you not troubled or anxious about the long journey which you are about the embark on ?” With an honest twinkle in her eye, the little girl responded, “my father is the conductor of this train; I trust that he will take me from station to station carefully and safely.”

For this exact reason Moshe Rabbeinu said, “Do not fear…” as the Egyptians quickly came in suit. Moshe was telling Klal Yisrael that although on the surface level, their lives may seem to be in danger; Hashem was the conductor of their procession. Their trust in Hashem should be as secure and sure as that little girl who sat on the train both careless and protected. Emunah is the medicine to all of our worries.

King David wrote in his book of psalms (27:1), “Hashem is my light and my savior…for what shall I fear”

While commentating within the context of Shmitta, the Sforno says, that Shmitta is not only a year to allow the land to lay fallow but it is also an opportunity for us as Jews to sit back and introspect on the six years that just passed, as well as, to make the proper preparations for the next six years that are to come.

While speaking to various figure heads in Israeli society whether they were entirely secular and only cared about the welfare of the country or to Haredi Rabbanim who saw the utmost importance in not desecrating the exact virtuous words of the Torah. It was clear that they shared one common goal which was that of maintaining a tradition in the observance of the Sabbatical year. While on the trip we continuously heard speakers talking about the economic state of Israel. Many of them mentioned that by completely allowing the land to lay fallow they would be putting the economy of Israel in jeopardy not only for this Shmitta year but also for the rest of time. So instead of totally getting rid of the halachik aspect of the issue they fully embraced it and placed Hashem and his Torah at the top of their priorities, hoping that as a result they still may be able to salvage the economy of the State.

This one micro controversy that troubles Israeli society is a paradigm of that which divides them.

Regardless, Emunah in Hashem will always reign supreme. The Shmitta year will end soon and the controversy will subside, at least until next time. The Jewish people however, will always exist for the rest of time.

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