GOOD MORNING! Did you know that trees not only have anniversaries, they have their own New Year? Next Shabbat, January 26th is Tu B'Shevat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat) and the New Year for trees!
The 15th of Shevat is the New Year for trees. In the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, it was used for calculating the tithing year for the fruits of trees. The Talmud tells us that trees stop absorbing water from the ground and instead draw nourishment from their sap on this date. Calculating the age of the tree for Orlah (Lev. 19:23) -- where fruit is allowed to be eaten from trees that are at least four years old -- is from Rosh Hashana.
How do we celebrate Tu B'Shevat? We eat fruit -- especially the fruits for which the Torah praises the Land of Israel: "A land of wheat and barley and vines (grapes) and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and (date) honey ... and you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deut. 8:8-10). The Jewish people rejoice in the fruits, in the Land and in the Almighty Who has given us life.
Many people celebrate Tu B'Shevat in Israel by planting trees (but not on Shabbos). This is an old Jewish consciousness. The Talmud (Ta'anis 23b) tells the story of the great sage Choni HaMa'agel who came across a 70 year old man planting a carob tree. He asked the man if he thought he would live to benefit from the tree. The man replied that just as others have planted for us, we plant for those who will come after us. For a beautiful insight into life, read Rabbi Yehuda Prero, TinyUrl.com/ChoniCarob .
If you can't get to Israel, you can always purchase trees to be planted in Israel from the Jewish National Fund (Jnf.org or call 800-542-TREE). There are 5 million trees that need to be replaced after the Carmel Forest a few years ago. Just as others have planted for us, we plant for those who will come after us.
The Kabbalists in Safad created a Tu B'Shevat Seder (similar to the Passover Seder) to delve into the inner meaning of the day. There are explanations and meditations on the inner dimensions of fruits, along with blessings, songs and deep discussion. You can find it at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat
In our home we put out a whole fruit display -- especially those mentioned above for which the land of Israel is praised. It is a time of appreciation for what the Almighty has given us and which we might take for granted. Let your attitude be gratitude!
Man is compared to a tree (Deut. 20:19). In Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers found in the back of most Siddurim, Jewish prayer books, available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242), it is written: "A person whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are numerous, but whose roots are few. The wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down. But a person whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place" (Avot 3:22).
Like a tree, our roots are the source of nourishment for our life. A Jew's nourishment is the Torah -- the knowledge and the means for us to make a spiritual connection to the Almighty. The Maharal teaches that just like the tree grows branches, flowers and fruits to fulfill its purpose, a man must work to produce moral, intellectual and spiritual accomplishments to fulfill his purpose. These are the fruits of our existence!
Just as a tree needs soil, water, air and sunlight, so does a person need to be spiritually rooted and connected with a source of nourishment. Water to a tree, Torah wisdom for us -- as Moses proclaims: "May my teaching drop like the rain" (Deut. 32:2). Air for the tree, spirituality for us -- as the Torah states that "God breathed life into the form of Man (Genesis 2:7)." Sunlight for a tree, the warmth of friendship and community for a person. Rabbi Shraga Simmons wrote a beautiful article, "Man is a Tree," expanding on this theme. You will also enjoy "Fruit and the Essence of Mankind" by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin -- available at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat .
Torah Portion of the Week
The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses with the men and Miriam with the women -- each separately -- sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.
They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites, "If you obey God your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am God who heals you." (This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt -- the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)
Later the Israelites rebel over lack of food; God provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. God tells Moses to strike a stone (later in the Torah God tells Moses to speak to the stone, not here!) which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
During our 40 years sojourn in the desert, we were attacked by the nation of Amalek. While the battle took place, Moshe stood on the top of a hill and raised his hands towards the heavens. This reminded the Jewish people to subject their hearts to the Almighty so that they would succeed and be victorious over Amalek. The Torah states:
"And the hands of Moshe were heavy and they took a rock and placed it under him and he sat on it" (Exodus 17:12).
Why did Moshe sit on a rock and not on pillows?
Rashi, the great commentator, informs us that Moshe sat on a rock and not on pillows because he did not want to sit in comfort while Jews were in danger and suffering. He wanted to feel their suffering and to share it. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz teaches that this is a lesson for us regarding how to feel another person's suffering. Don't just imagine the pain of another, but do something physically to actually feel his pain.
Empathy is such an important attribute that we should make every effort to feel for another person. By being aware of how a little discomfort bothers us, we can have greater empathy for others -- especially those coming to our door or meeting us in the street asking for tzedakah (charity)!
An egotistical person only cares about his own welfare and is totally uninterested in anyone else's difficulties and problems. He only wants to make certain that he is comfortable. If he is in any distress, he no longer can think about the suffering of others. Here we see that in order to feel someone else's suffering, we should go out of our way to make ourselves a little less comfortable when others are suffering. Our own distress is more real than someone else's. By being aware of how a little discomfort bothers us, we can have greater empathy for others!
CANDLE LIGHTING - Jaunary 25
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
After the game, the King and the pawn
go into the same box
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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