This week, Aviva Silverman, the bereaved mother of IDF soldier Uriel Silverman, who fell fighting in the Southern Gaza strip, spoke movingly and passionately at her son’s funeral and called for an end to the divisiveness within Israel.
Aviva addressed her words to the media and said that, “I don’t think you realize how much responsibility you have and how important it is not to denigrate any member of our society, and how much damage is caused with every bad word that is used against any part of the nation. In the Book of our Prophets it states that during the reign of the wicked King Achav, there were no war casualties even though he was wicked. This is because there were no slanderers at the time. Yet, in the time of righteous King David there were casualties at war, since Lashon Hara was being shared.”
Aviva implored them in her name together with all the bereaved families, not to cause divisiveness through negative headlines. Rather they should report all the good and wonderful unifying initiatives that are happening in our wonderful nation. In this merit we will be able to win!
When the Torah describes the exodus of the Jews from Egypt it uses an ambiguous word, Va’Chamushim. The Medrashim and our commentators expound on its meaning.
Our great commentator Rashi offers two explanations: One, is that the Jews came out from Egypt armed and prepared for the trip through the desert. The second is, that the root of the word Va’Chamushim is Chamaish, which is five. This alludes to the terrible consequence that the Jews suffered during the plague of darkness, when four fifths of the Jewish people died during the plague. This was because those Jew chose not to leave Egypt and also wished to prevent others from leaving. This was even after they witnessed eight miraculous plagues. Chamushim thus means, only a fifth of the Jews left Egypt. A frightening assessment of the Egyptian influence on that segment of Jews.
But what happened to the children of these Jews who died during darkness? The Medrash again uses the word Chamushim and tells us that each family that left Egypt, adopted five orphaned children.
When the Torah describes the proliferation of the Jews in Egypt despite the back-breaking labor, it states five words, Paru, Vayishritzu, Va’yatzmu Meod Meod. Each word represents a generation. Thus, Va’Chamushim alludes to the fact that family units consisted of five generations when the Jews left Egypt.
Chamushim also alludes to the number 50. G-d extricated the Jews from Egypt before they reached the abyss of the 50th level of spiritual impurity. When He freed them, they utilized the 50 days from when they were freed until they received the Torah, to gradually lift themselves up spiritually, to be worthy of G-d’s Revelation at Mount Sinai which was akin to the 50th level, the apex of understanding the spiritual depths of the Torah.
The Torah tells us that if a Jew acquired a Jewish slave and during the slave’s term the Yovel – Jubilee 50th year ― is proclaimed, the slave goes free. The Torah captures the freedom of the Jews from Egypt with the word Chamushim, as a hint to their status as being freed, which is akin to the Yovel year when slaves are freed.
It is pointed out that throughout the entire Torah, our Exodus from Egypt is mentioned fifty times, pointing to the significance this event has upon us as a nation and our belief in G-d who is always watching over us!
Today is Tu B’shvat, the Rosh Hashana for the trees. Being that most of the rainy winter season has passed by this point, the trees are now ready to bud. The 15th of Shevat is a marker to determine which year the fruits belong to in terms of tithing. If the fruit budded by the 15th of Shevat, it is tithed together with the last year’s crop. If the fruit budded from the 15th of Shevat and on, the fruit is tithed together with the next year’s crop.
Our Sages tell us that the Seraf – the infusion of the sap within the tree that generates productivity, happens on Tu B’shvat.
When one takes a step back and contemplates on the uniqueness of a tree, he will be astounded by its revival. Trees become bare and then regenerate fruit and leaves, basically, without us giving it any attention.
Additionally, one observes that delicious fruit and beautiful leaves emerge from a solid piece of wood connected to the ground! A wonderful miracle that constantly stares us in the face.
In conclusion, mainly all fruit trees produce delicious sweet tasting fruit that are ready for us to enjoy. It is G-d’s way of delightfully providing us with ready-made dessert!
So, when we are ready to eat a fruit and we recite the blessing of Borai Pri Ha’atz – He Who created the fruit of the tree – we’ll have an additional appreciation of G-d’s incredible treat.