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Something fishy this parsha comes

“May you swim like Ephraim and Menasseh”

“Find the Hidden God” by Abe Mezrich

1. Puzzle

Jacob blesses his grandchildren:
let them multiply as fish
in the midst of the land.

Such a strange blessing!

2. Land and Sea
God does not mention fish
when He makes the things of the water.
God and the Torah only mention fish
when God makes people:
they will rule over all things,
they will rule over the fish of the sea.

When God rescues Israel from Egypt at the Sea
the Children of Israel saw the great Hand of God,
and they believed in God.

We are land dwellers.
Things of the water do not exist for us
until we and they are brought into connection:
until we rule over fish,
until God protects us with His Hand.
Then these things come into view,
and they exist for us.

3. Blessing

To be a fish that thrives on land
is to live that connection
that seems impossibly unapparent
between the world where we exist
and the world beyond—
between the land and the sea,
between our lives
and the Hand of God.

Jacob blesses his grandchildren:
live that hidden connection so firmly
that it becomes you.
____
Genesis Chapter 1, 48:1-15; Exodus Chapter 14
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Tu Bishvat, Jewish Poetry Month and a taste of Parshat Beshalach from Ben Yehuda Press

B”H

Tu Bishvat is coming! This is also the week of Beshalach, and we’ll begin with the parsha before we veer off into the New Year of the Trees. (Keep your seatbelts on!)

First, Abe Mezrich offers poetic midrash on chapter 14 of Exodus from his book Words for a Dazzling Firmament. (If you enjoy this piece, our big sale for Jewish Poetry Month is still ongoing: buy two books, get a third one free. We have a three-volume set from Abe Mezrich, so you can get them all even cheaper than our usual bundle price!)

Salvation by Abe Mezrich

God tells Moses,
Why do you cry out to Me?
Move into the unpassable water.

& when the people do,

God splits the Sea
into a miracle.

Sometimes you cry out for help
but sometimes God wants, instead,
for you to walk so deep into your own waters
that you force His Hand.
Words for a Dazzling Firmament - cover image
And now about Tu Bishvat… One of our parsha books is unique in that it offers not only commentary on the Torah portion, but also on major and minor holidays, and even individual prayers. This is what Torah Without End edited by Rabbi Michael Strassfeld has to say on Tu Bishvat, a chapter authored by Rabbi Robin Damsky!
“The Rebbe [Nahman] spoke: “If only you could be privileged to hear the songs and the praises of the grasses, how each and every blade of grass sings out its song to the Blessed Creator, without any distracting thoughts and without expectation of any reward. How good and lovely it is when you hear their song. And it is very good when among them to worship the Holy Blessed Creator with reverence.”

—Sichot HaRan 163.3, Rebbe Nahman of Bratzlav

What is the song of a blade of grass? Note how this blade holds you in its arms, how it offers its teaching to you. Listen. Touch if it helps, stroke. Be One. And receive.

Each and every blade of grass has its own song. So does each leaf of a tree, each trunk, each root system. If we listen closely, without distraction (machshevot zarot), if we become present with the soil-being within – the adam/human created from the adamah/soil – we can not only hear the song of each individual blade of grass, we can hear the harmonies of the grasses. We can then tune our attention to distinguish these melodies from the songs of each tree leaf, trunk and root. For the sound of a trunk is very different from the song of its leaf, and its roots sing a different melody entirely. Yet heard altogether, we can even feel in our bones the chorus that each tree composes. What richness, then, the symphony of a grove or forest with all its trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses. How can we hear? How can we smell? How can we feel? It begins with creating a relationship with one blade of grass, one leaf, one trunk. In time, we can hear the symphony of the green world whose exhale is our very inhale.

The privilege of which Rebbe Nahman speaks is the gift of presence. How precious the space is when we are truly engaged, and connected. What we can hear, see, feel, taste and touch when we are connected to Sacred Spirit is a true privilege. That sense of connection is prayer itself.

Tu Bishvat is one calendar reminder for us to take time to listen, notice, and feel. Ideally, we can bring this into our lives regularly, yet on Tu Bishvat, we make a specific intention to invest in this connection.

“The Rebbe [Nahman] spoke: “If only you could be privileged to hear the songs and the praises of the grasses, how each and every blade of grass sings out its song to the Blessed Creator, without any distracting thoughts and without expectation of any reward. How good and lovely it is when you hear their song. And it is very good when among them to worship the Holy Blessed Creator with reverence.”

—Sichot HaRan 163.3, Rebbe Nahman of Bratzlav

What is the song of a blade of grass? Note how this blade holds you in its arms, how it offers its teaching to you. Listen. Touch if it helps, stroke. Be One. And receive.

Each and every blade of grass has its own song. So does each leaf of a tree, each trunk, each root system. If we listen closely, without distraction (machshevot zarot), if we become present with the soil-being within – the adam/human created from the adamah/soil – we can not only hear the song of each individual blade of grass, we can hear the harmonies of the grasses. We can then tune our attention to distinguish these melodies from the songs of each tree leaf, trunk and root. For the sound of a trunk is very different from the song of its leaf, and its roots sing a different melody entirely. Yet heard altogether, we can even feel in our bones the chorus that each tree composes. What richness, then, the symphony of a grove or forest with all its trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses. How can we hear? How can we smell? How can we feel? It begins with creating a relationship with one blade of grass, one leaf, one trunk. In time, we can hear the symphony of the green world whose exhale is our very inhale.

The privilege of which Rebbe Nahman speaks is the gift of presence. How precious the space is when we are truly engaged, and connected. What we can hear, see, feel, taste and touch when we are connected to Sacred Spirit is a true privilege. That sense of connection is prayer itself.

Tu Bishvat is one calendar reminder for us to take time to listen, notice, and feel. Ideally, we can bring this into our lives regularly, yet on Tu Bishvat, we make a specific intention to invest in this connection.

Practice:

Go outside and find grass, a tree, or a shrub. If being outside is completely impossible, find an indoor plant. Or watch a beautiful nature video of grasses and trees. Settle. Breathe. Feel your soil-self, your adamah-ness. Then listen. Touch, if possible, even smell the esev – the green – that Spirit has put forth. You might notice synesthesia. Smell its beauty. Feel and hear its song. Sense your part of the song, how you are an integral voice of this symphony, this dance of creation.

Feel your wholeness as intertwined with the wholeness of All. Listen to its teaching. Take it in. Let it sit. Then bring forward what is yours to share to help bring forth the songs of the green things to others and help heal the future for this majestic symphony.

Go outside and find grass, a tree, or a shrub. If being outside is completely impossible, find an indoor plant. Or watch a beautiful nature video of grasses and trees. Settle. Breathe. Feel your soil-self, your adamah-ness. Then listen. Touch, if possible, even smell the esev – the green – that Spirit has put forth. You might notice synesthesia. Smell its beauty. Feel and hear its song. Sense your part of the song, how you are an integral voice of this symphony, this dance of creation.

Feel your wholeness as intertwined with the wholeness of All. Listen to its teaching. Take it in. Let it sit. Then bring forward what is yours to share to help bring forth the songs of the green things to others and help heal the future for this majestic symphony.
Now that we’ve communed with the trees and nature, it is fitting to quote a chapter from Abraham Sutzkever’s epic poem Ode to the Dove translated by Zackary Sholem Berger and illustrated by Liora Ostroff – forthcoming from us in February! The poet is seeking the dove all over the world, including in forests and on mountaintops…
Ode to the Dove illustration by Liora Ostroff - Chapter VII
Dancer, tell me—where are you? My hair senses your flutter.
The dove can’t give me an answer: where is your home, where’s your theater?
Your eyes bring me this once a doe in sunshine’s dew.
Where is the tremble in gardens with blossoms Chagallian blue?

Who’s breathing me in like a rainbow, near the rain-drenched forest?
Who is the naked wave, so flexible because so boneless?
Who is that snowvalanche aglow over rockface abyss?
She buries in garlands an eagle wishing—for her breasts—a kiss.

Who is the mirror in tears? Who are the faces, those new ones?
In the coffin, who is that woman? The funeral covered with roses?
The wheels keep turning and turning, devouring and binding my shadow.
A shovel buried itself in a grave full of dirt, just today.

Who is the white transformation, which cannot emerge from the birch?
Who is the echo of silence and who is the silence in blush?
No one at all will answer me? Are insanities burning inside me?
Just today, stones did stone themselves in the street.
Will the poet’s emotional turmoil end, and will he find the dove? You will get to find out on February 14! In the meanwhile, we wish you a great Shabbat, Tu Bishvat, and continued Jewish Poetry Month.

PS – You don’t need to add a code to apply the Poetry Month discount in our webstore. Good reading!
abe torah bundle
Torah Without End - book cover
Ode to the Dove - book cover