January 10, 2014
Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, January 10, 2014.
Traditionally, each Shabbat is referred to by the name of the Torah Portion that is read on that Shabbat. So… this Shabbat is often referred to as “Shabbat Beshallach,” since that portion, Beshallach, (Exodus 13:17-17:16) will be read this Shabbat. However… some Shabbatot (plural of Shabbat) are named also by something that happens in the Torah Portion. Beshallach contains the episode of crossing the Red Sea in which we are told: Az yashir Moshe uV’nei Yisrael et HaShirah hazot (Then Moses and the Children of Israel sang this song). The word “song” used in this context is “shirah.” Therefore, this Shabbat is called “Shabbat Shirah.”
This Shabbat is always in midwinter -- in Eastern Europe, the custom arose that this was a Shabbat in which people went out to scatter seeds, especially kasha (buckwheat) to feed the birds! This custom is connected to another incident in this week’s portion: the children of Israel are told to collect Manna, that magical food-like substance that was provided to sustain the children of Israel in the desert. According to an ancient rabbinical legend, even though the Israelites were told NOT to collect it on the Sabbath, there were those who sought to undermine the authority of Moses. The bad guys knew that there would be no manna on the Sabbath, so they went out the night before to put manna which they had collected the day before in the fields. When they brought the other rebels to collect the manna and prove Moses wrong, there was none! The birds had foiled the evil plan by eating up the manna! Therefore, Jews feed the birds on this special day! In fact, the name of the parsha, “BeShaLaCH” is seen as an acronym: B’Shabbat Shirah Le’echol Chitim… On Shabbat Shirah, eat wheat (buckwheat)!
So… why don’t you try feeding the birds on this Shabbat? It’s a tradition!