Parashat B'shalah

The Source Of Spirituality

The glorification of God in the Song at the Sea provides us with several models of attaining spirituality.

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Adding an aesthetic dimension to mitzvot expresses how deeply we cherish the mitzvot. Who is not touched with emotions of spirituality upon entering a traditional home on the Sabbath Eve to see a family around the table, upon which rests a beautiful, glittering candelabra, a shiny Kiddush cup, an embroidered challah cover--the entire Sabbath decor! Beauty evokes spirituality!

Moreover, the great Talmudic Sage, Abba Shaul, teaches that the summit of Jewish spirituality goes beyond the realm of the aesthetic and reaches into the orbit of the ethical.

Refining Our Character

The mitzvah to refine our character and to develop into caring, loving, sensitive and ethical people is also learned from the word, ve’anveihu. By dividing the word in two--ani vehu, I and Him--we derive that the highest spiritual achievement is to emulate God’s attributes. Just as He is gracious, compassionate, kind and forgiving, so, too, we must be gracious, compassionate, kind and forgiving. We must become Godlike. Imitatio Dei is the foundation of Jewish ethics.

The summit of spirituality is reached when, after internalizing these ethical traits, we reflect them in our thoughts, in our speech, and in our actions. While outer beauty is aesthetically appealing, we must develop an inner beauty that issues from the heart. Each of us who follows the Godly way becomes a beautiful Jew--sheiner yid.

Is it not remarkable that one Hebrew word from the Torah contains so many diverse and rich nuances? This isthe greatness of the Torah--the source of all spirituality!

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Rabbi Solomon Freilich

Rabbi Dr. Solomon Freilich is rabbi of Congregation Brothers of Israel Mount Vernon, New York.