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D’var Torah: Parashat Beshalach

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This week, the Chief Rabbi explains the proper way to say thank you to Hashem.

What is the best way to thank Hashem for enabling us to survive?

In Parashat Beshalach the Torah describes the miraculous redemption of the Israelites. Having emerged on the other side of the Red Sea they sang the famous ‘Az Yashir’ – The song of Moshe. They exclaimed, “Zeh Keili V’Anveihu – This is my God, and I will glorify Him.” This was their expression of gratitude to Hashem.

But what does that actually mean? How do you glorify God?

The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat, Daf Kuf Lamed Gimmel Amud Bet, explains I ‘glorify Hashem’ by beautifying the commandments that I perform. It could be the Tefillin I wear, Tzitzit, Tallit, or the candles that I light just before Shabbat or Yom Tov, the Arba Minim and so on. We shouldn’t treat these Mitzvot as opportunities to just about pass the line, to be ‘yotzeh,’ to do what is right and no more. Rather we should take pride in them to show how much we appreciate the beauty of Mitzvot. In that way we glorify Hashem’s name.

There is another ‘peirush’ that is given by many of our medieval commentators, such as Onkelos, Rashi, Ibn Ezra and the Ramban.

They say that the word ‘V’Anveihu’ comes from the root ‘Naveh’ which means a home. Therefore ‘V’Anveihu’ means, ‘I will build a home for Hashem’. Here, from the dawn of the existence of the Jewish nation, as it emerged from Egypt, they aspired to build a Temple – a home for Hashem.

The ‘Peirush’ I like most is that of Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch. He said that ‘V’Anveihu’ literally means ‘I will become a home for Hashem’. Indicating that the very essence of my being will be one through which I reflect the existence of the Almighty in the world.

This is something we achieve through the spirituality that hopefully we will attain and also via the ‘Chessed’ – the loving-kindness that one can extend to others.

When Avraham Avinu stood before the children of Chait, wanting to purchase land to bury Sarah, they declared, “Nasee Elokim Ata Betocheinu – You are a prince of God in our midst.”

In Avraham Avinu they saw somebody who embodied the very existence of Hashem through his ways. He was somebody who achieved the ‘Vanveihu’. They recognised a great person of Kedusha – of spirituality and also a great master of ‘Chessed – somebody who genuinely cared for others.

This is how we thank Hashem for enabling our people to survive. This is how we glorify him through being veritable princes and princesses. Having Hashem in our hearts and minds all the time.

Shabbat Shalom