1. This week’s parshah describes several miracles of a general nature which occurred to the Jewish people after they left Egypt including the splitting of the sea and the slaughter of the Egyptians, the sweetening of the waters of Marah, the manna, the slav [the fowl with which G‑d provided the Jews], the well of water which accompanied the Jews through the desert, and the defeat of Amalek in battle.

The fact that the Torah groups all of these miracles in a single Torah portion appears to indicate that they share a connection. Nevertheless, that connection is difficult to understand. On the surface, they appear to be separate and different matters.

Another question can be asked based on Rashi’s commentary in the beginning of Parshas Yisro. There Rashi asks: What motivated Yisro to come to the Jews? And answers: The splitting of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek. Similarly, on another verse, Rashi explains that he was motivated by the miracles of the manna and the well. On the surface, why did these miracles motivate Yisro more than the Ten Plagues or the other miracles G‑d which performed in Egypt.

Also, the word Torah means “instruction.” Thus, every story the Torah relates is told to provide us with an “instruction” in our service of G‑d. What instruction can we derive from the narrative of these miracles?

The resolution to these questions depends on the understanding that the three miracles, the splitting of the Red Sea, the manna, and the war with Amalek, were of a general nature, whose significance continues for all time.

In regard to the splitting of the Red Sea: It is explained that the splitting of the Red Sea was one of the preparations necessary for the giving of the Torah, and thus continues to have ongoing relevance. For this reason, we recall the splitting of the sea in our prayers each day.

The continuous relevance of the manna is obvious from G‑d’s command to set aside one measure as “a keepsake for your [future] generations,” so that we will constantly be aware that G‑d is providing our livelihood. For this reason, the Shulchan Aruch recommends reciting the passage concerning the manna each day.1

Similarly, the war with Amalek is described as continuing, “from generation to generation.”2 Many authorities consider the mitzvah of remembering Amalek as obligatory upon us at all time and for this reason, it is customary to recall Amalek each day in the Six Remembrances.

The connection between these three miracles can be explained within the context of the song sang after the crossing of the Red Sea which expresses our praise of G‑d and our thanks for His saving us from the Egyptians. Nevertheless, the song also mentions the retribution visited upon the Egyptians and the death they suffered.3 On the surface, the question arises: Why is it necessary to mention the gentiles at all? Why doesn’t the song focus on the Jews alone?

The mention of the gentiles is necessary, however, because the purpose of this song is not to praise the greatness of G‑d in the spiritual realms or His love for the souls of Jewish people. Rather, the intent is to praise His power and greatness within this material world and to acknowledge His bond with the Jews as they exist, one nation among many gentile foes. Although they are “a lamb among seventy wolves,” G‑d protects them from harm and works miracles for them.

This is the setting for the revelation of how, as the song concludes, “G‑d will reign forever and ever,” how His sovereignty will be expressed throughout the world. Commenting on the above verse, the Midrash relates: “Although You have existed for all time, Your throne was not established, nor were You made known in Your world until Your children uttered the song.” At the splitting of the Red Sea, the Divine power invested and enclothed within the world was openly revealed,4 and the potential was granted to see G‑dliness in every entity in the world. Through the Jews’ recitation of the song,5 they brought about the recognition of G‑d’s sovereignty in the world.

In order to bring about the revelation of “And G‑d will reign forever and ever” in the world at large, a person must first internalize the awareness of G‑d’s sovereignty within his own consciousness. He must realize that G‑d’s Kingship encompasses the totality of his existence, even his mundane physical realities.

This is the message of the manna, that one’s livelihood comes directly from G‑d, and from G‑d alone.6 Even when a Jew must work to earn his livelihood and other intermediaries are involved, he is being sustained by G‑d. Thus, the Rebbe Maharash would say that earning a livelihood today, in the time of exile, is “manna from heaven.”

A Jew is essentially above the natural limitations of the world. Even when he descends and is involved with those realities and the gentiles in his environment, he remains essentially above nature and is sustained by “manna from heaven.” [This lesson is further reinforced by the miracles of the slav and the well of water which accompanied the Jews in the desert. They are also examples of how G‑d provided for the Jews material needs in a supernatural manner.]

The realization that G‑d controls his material existence makes it possible for a Jew to internalize his awareness of G‑d’s sovereignty. Since “He placed the world within their hearts,” this awareness makes it possible for G‑d’s sovereignty to be expressed in the world at large. There are, however, impediments to the revelation of His sovereignty which must be nullified in order for that revelation to be complete. This is the purpose of the war against Amalek.

Our Sages comment, “G‑d swore that His name, nor His throne will be complete until the name of Amalek is wiped out entirely.” Thus, Amalek represents the antithesis of G‑d’s sovereignty. Since the expression of G‑d’s sovereignty is an eternally relevant concept, the negation of Amalek, who prevent that expression, is also of constant relevance.

On a personal level, the quality of Amalek refers to coldness in the service of G‑d. On the verse, “Remember what Amalek did to you...as you came forth from Egypt, how he met you on the way...,” the Midrash explains that the Hebrew korcha translated as “he met you,” could also be interpreted as “he cooled you off.” Similarly, the Rabbis have noted the numerical equivalence between Amalek (עמלק) and the word safek (ספק) meaning “doubt.”

Amalek represents the potential which raises doubts in our minds and cools off our excitement after witnessing the miracles that accompany our personal exodus from Egypt. It deadens a Jew’s sensitivity to the providence with which G‑d controls our lives.7 Therefore, for G‑d’s sovereignty to be revealed, Amalek must be nullified.

On the basis of the above, we can understand why it was the news of the miracles of the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek that motivated Yisro to join the Jewish people and declare, “Now I know that the L‑rd is greater than all the gods.” It is, however, necessary to resolve several difficulties in regard to that quote: a) How is calling G‑d greater than other divinities praise for Him? b) Why does the Torah mention that Yisro had been an idolater? Why should it mention such an uncomplimentary piece of personal history? The Torah refrains from making uncomplimentary statements even when a non-kosher animal is concerned. Surely, this would be appropriate in regard to Yisro.

These questions can be resolved within the Rambam’s explanation of how people came to worship other divinities. The Rambam states that initially, the people conceived of these divinities as intermediaries. They understood that G‑d was the ultimate source of influence, but felt that because He was so lofty, it was not fitting that He control the mundane realities of worldly experience, and these matters, He entrusted to the sun, the stars, and other intermediaries.

Thus, their mistake was ascribing willful power to these intermediaries, believing that they had a certain measure of independent control over our experience when in truth, they are merely, “an axe in the hands of the chopper,” i.e., just as an axe is an inanimate object with no will of its own, so too, these intermediaries are controlled by G‑d alone and they have no independent power of determination.

Thus, in essence, the negation of idol worship involves, not only the nullification of the belief in idols, but a rejection of all intermediaries, an awareness that even within the context of our material existence, our fate is controlled by G‑d alone. Thus, after Yisro heard about the miracles of the splitting of the Red Sea, the manna, the well, and the war with Amalek, he came to the awareness that G‑d’s sovereignty was manifest in every element of existence, including even our mundane realities. He understood the true nature of all the forces which appear as powers in this world, that they are merely like “an axe in the hands of the chopper” and therefore, he renounced idol worship entirely.8

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2. There is a connection between the above concepts and Yud Shvat, the yahrzeit of the Previous Rebbe, which was commemorated this week.9 The Previous Rebbe’s service was expressed in spreading Yiddishkeit and Chassidus throughout the world, preparing the world for the revelation of G‑d’s sovereignty.

[There is also a connection between the miracles mentioned above and the teachings of Chassidus. Torah is described as “bread” and within Torah itself, the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah as “bread from Heaven,” manna. Similarly, oil is used as a metaphor for Chassidus and the slav were distinguished as a uniquely succulent fowl.10 ]

The relation of the teachings of Chassidus to the revelation of G‑d’s sovereignty within the world was reflected in the Previous Rebbe’s efforts to translate the teachings of Chassidus into secular languages and his efforts to spread justice and righteousness (as expressed through the seven universal laws commanded to Noach and his descendants) among the gentiles.

The nature of the Previous Rebbe’s service is reflected in his name, Yosef Yitzchok. Yosef is associated with the concept of “increase” and Yitzchok with “laughter” and “joy.”

More particularly, Yosef refers to the service of “May G‑d add on to me another son,” i.e., transforming one who is “another,” estranged from his Jewish roots, to a “son.”11 Yitzchok is associated with the service of “Whoever hears will laugh with me,” spreading happiness and joy in a manner that “whoever hears,” i.e., even someone who does not consciously intend to hear, “will laugh with me.”

An added dimension of the Previous Rebbe’s yahrzeit is reflected by the fact that this year, it is commemorated on a Friday. Friday is set aside for the preparations for Shabbos. Similarly, this points to the fact that ours, the sixth millennia (and more particularly, the latter portion of the sixth millennia, more than three quarters of it having passed), is a preparatory stage for the seventh millennia, “the day which is all Shabbos and rest for eternity.” Indeed, it is already “Friday afternoon” and we are waiting with anticipation for “Shabbos.”

This must be associated with an increase in the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah as a foretaste and preparation for the revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah in the Era of Redemption.

3. The above concepts also share a connection with Tu BeShvat, the Rosh HaShanah of the Trees. The trees are part of the plant kingdom called tzomeach in Hebrew. Literally, the word tzomeach means “growth,” thus also pointing to the concept of increase, continually progressing further.

On Tu BeShvat, it is customary to partake generously of fruits and in particular, the species of fruit for which Eretz Yisrael is blessed. The Torah praises Eretz Yisrael for seven species of produce. Two, wheat and barley, are grains. The other five, grapes, pomegranates, figs, olives, and dates, are fruits. The difference between grain and fruit is that grain is a staple food, necessary for the maintenance of our well-being. Fruits are delicacies, eaten for pleasure. Tu BeShvat gives us the potential to carry out our service, not only according to the very minimum necessary to maintain our existence, but rather in a manner that leads to pleasure.

Similarly, it is customary to eat carobs on Tu BeShvat. The mention of carobs relates to Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa who would eat only “one measure of carobs” a week. Our Sages describe Rabbi Chaninah as being “trained in miracles,” i.e., miracles were an ordinary aspect of his everyday life.

The same applies for every Jew. Although we are living in a material world, in an environment with gentiles that is apparently controlled by the forces of nature, a Jew is connected with G‑d who controls nature. “The Guardian of Israel does not sleep or slumber” and protects him in a manner which transcends nature. Indeed, miracles are an ordinary element of a Jew’s life. If there is a person who does not recognize these miracles, it is only because he has his eyes closed. There can be no other explanation. If a person opens his eyes and thinks about what has happened to him, he will realize the open miracles that are shaping his life.

If this is true regarding a Jew in the world at large, how much more so does it apply to a Jew living in Eretz Yisrael, G‑d’s chosen land, of which it is written, “the eyes of G‑d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to its end.” It is not necessary for him to open a newspaper and read how one non-Jew shot a missile at the Jews and another non-Jew — one of the pious of the nations of the world — shot another missile which intercepted it. All he has to do is look at the world around him and appreciate the miracles, miracles of a good and positive nature, which are occurring to him and to those around him.

A Jew must act maturely within the world and employ all the natural means at his disposal. His activities must, however, be suffused with bitachon, trust in G‑d that He will provide him with open and abundant good. Similarly, in regard to the Jewish people as a whole, we must proceed with confidence that G‑d will bring the ultimate and complete redemption. And thus, thankful for the miracles that He has wrought for us already and trusting that He will perform other miracles in the future, we must — particularly on Shabbos Shirah, the Shabbos of Song — recite songs of praise to Him.

The above concepts will be enhanced by the study of the maamar, Baruch Sh’Osoh Nissim (“Blessed be He who performed miracles”) which was distributed on Yud Shvat.12 The distribution of the maamar should lead to an increase in the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah. Similarly, together with the maamar, two dollars were given to be distributed to tzedakah. Our Sages relate that tzedakah is equivalent to all the mitzvos. The word mitzvah is related to the word tzavsa meaning “connection.” Thus, these gifts to tzedakah will increase the connection and bond, the Jews share with G‑d. This will lead to an increase in Torah and mitzvos in general which in turn will lead to an increase in G‑d’s blessings, including blessings of peace and prosperity.

In that vein, it is worthy to mention the custom of eating the fruits associated with Eretz Yisrael on Tu BeShvat. May the observance of this custom strengthen our connection with Eretz Yisrael and may we witness in the imminent future the fulfillment of the prophecy, “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.”