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Parshas B'Shalach - The Beginning of Life        11 Shvat 5783

02/01/2023 02:20:25 PM


This week’s Dvar Torah is sponsored by Ronnie & Susan Masliansky in memory of Rabbi Bogopulsky and Ronnie Masliansky’s grandmother Esther Rachel bas Nachum Bogopulsky & Ronnie’s grandfather Aharon ben Avraham Yitzchak Masliansky A"H.

Today, Thursday the eleventh day of Shvat, marks sixty-three years since my grandmother passed away. I never met my paternal grandmother and therefore never connected with her in a meaningful way. The two reminders I have of my grandmother are: (1) My sister is named after her, and (2) Since the time my mother passed away, I recited kaddish on the date of my grandmother’s yahrzeit because my father, who was living, couldn’t say it. For many years, my cousin recited kaddish for our grandmother, also someone who he had never known, for several years, but I did not recite kaddish because my parents were both alive. Now that my father has passed away, I no longer carry the responsibility to say kaddish for my grandmother. (The only kaddish obligation is for one’s parents, not for their parents – grandparents).. There is a debate as to whether one must honor a grandparent as a parent, and what just would those honors be?

One aspect of honoring a grandparent is drawn from a nuance of the brilliance of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. Rabbi Akiva Eiger (responsa, volume 1, no. 68) makes a fascinating statement concerning the obligation of a grandchild to honor his grandparents. Quoting from the Levias Chen, he writes that the obligation applies only during a parent’s lifetime; if the parent, who links the grandchild to the grandparent, dies during the grandparent’s lifetime, the mitzvah is no longer incumbent upon the grandchild. The distinction drawn by Rabbi Akiva Eiger is based on the teaching of a Gemara in Kiddushin 31a, whereby a son is obligated to heed the instructions of his father over that of his mother, because both he and his mother are obligated to honor his father. Since the mother is also obligated to honor her husband, the honor of the father takes precedence over that of the mother. Based on this reasoning, it is possible that the obligation to honor one’s grandparents is based on the obligation to honor one’s parents: A parent’s obligation to honor his own parents forms an obligation upon him to also honor his grandparents. Of course, according to this rationale, the obligation applies only during the lifetime of the parent. This rationale presents an elegant explanation for why a person is required to honor his father more than his grandfather. The obligation to honor one’s parent is a direct Torah instruction. The honor of one’s grandparent, however, is an indirect obligation, derived from the obligation to honor one’s parent. Accordingly, the direct mitzva is greater than the indirect mitzvah of honoring a parent’s parent. Based on this rationale, there is no room to distinguish between paternal and maternal grandparents; the obligation to honor grandparents  applies to all equally. (Also, it’s interesting to note that Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s rationale is not consistent with Rashi’s citation of the Midrash: Yitzchak was no longer alive at the time Yaakov brought his offerings. Thus, it seems that authorities who cite that Midrash will not concur).

Parents, grandparents, and previous generations are the link to our past. For the Jewish people, it was precisely during these parshios that the family of Klal Yisroel emerged. In this week’s parsha B’Shalach, we read how the Yam Suf split and that we walked across on dry land  witnessing the Egyptians following us and then being drowned as walls of water crashed down. A significant image to consider is the fact that the Jewish people “were in the sea”, totally enveloped and submerged by water as though they were covered by the waters of a mikva, undergoing a purification process. The Jewish people had just left Mitzrayim, emerging from the forty-ninth level of impurity and going through the Yam Suf, the purification moment of their Neshamos. When we immerse in a mikva, we emerge as new, purified. So, too, the Jewish people immersed themselves and came out as new - similar to the birth of a newborn baby emerging from an existence surrounded by fluids. When a baby is born, it enters this world with a clean slate, with a fresh, new and pure beginning of life.  

The following parable written by Dr. Wayne Dyer, entitled “A Conversation in the Womb – A Parable of Life After Delivery”, sums up our physical existence in this world and our spiritual one in the world to come.

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery? “The other replied, “Why, of course. There must be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists, then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

The process of the Jewish people entering and exiting the sea was not limited to  birth/new life into this world of Olam Hazeh; it also served as a portend for the next world. The experience of Yam Suf was to demonstrate how Hashem takes care of us in this world and the next. This is an important lesson as there are many Jews who do not believe in a life after this world and therefore do not take this world with adequate seriousness. With that I will share an incredible piece of creative writing that I believe is one of the best presentations of a world to come.

Mon, March 4 2024 24 Adar I 5784