Tuesday, January 18, 2011
A Time for Hidden Beginnings
Both the Torah reading and the haftorah following TubShevat are connected with trees and the message of TubShevat. Receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai is directly connected to TubShevat: The New Year of the Tree, as the Torah is the Tree of Life. TubShevat celebrates our ability to rectify eating from the Tree of Knowledge and transform it into the Tree of Life. This is why it is called New Year of the Tree in singular, rather than the New Year of the Trees (Mishna Rosh Hashana, Chapter 1 Mishna 1).
At Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin, we are getting ready for another unforgettable experience of eating rectification during our 14th Annual TubShevat Seder. If you contact us today you may still be part of turning the Tree of Knowledge into the Tree of Life during our TubShevat program on Thursday. However, registration for the TubShevat Shabbaton is closed, as we will be 31 at my home Friday night!
The haftorah from Yesha’yahu 6:1-13 also connects to the theme of trees. Yesha’yahu prophesies about the destruction of towns in Israel that we have recently witnessed. Towns and houses were emptied of their inhabitants, and the ground was completely deserted (Yesha’yahu 6:11). However, even within the prophecy of destruction, hope is never lost. “When there is yet a tenth of it, it will again be purged, like the terebinth and like the oak, which in the fall have but a trunk, the holy seed is its trunk” (Ibid. 6:13). Like terebinth and oak trees, whose stumps live on even after they are cut down, part of Israel will remain a “holy seed” to regenerate Israel. B”H the rebuilding of the holy towns of Gush Katif will infuse all of Israel with the holiness of planting. This TubShevat, our students too will regenerate Israel through holy planting.
Please partner with us today to support our gardening projects with your tax-deductible donation!
Click here for a printable version
As the holiday of TubShvat – the New-Year of the Trees is approaching we would have expected to see the trees in their full green glory crowned with ripe radiant fruit. Wouldn't it at least be fitting to celebrate the New – Year of the trees around Pessach time when the buds are just opening to express the beginning of their new life?
Yet, The New Year of the trees is celebrated at the time when all the fruits and leaves have fallen and the tree stands bare and naked – when the cold and dark envelops Nature with its muddy cover. The secret of TuB'Shvat gently whispers; “When everything looks dead, dark and murky, life, light and glory is hiding just below the surface.” The time when nothing seems to be happening on the outside; is the beginning of the richest inner life.
The fact that the peak of winter is selected to mark the New Year of the Trees reflects the Jewish outlook to begin the day with its preceding night. During the night and dark times of our lives it is only faith in a better morrow that gives us the strength to keep carrying on. It is this faith that has nurtured the Jewish people throughout our troublesome history of anti-Semitism, suppression and pogroms.
Gardening and planting also help strengthen our faith in a better future. The first order of the mishna is called “seeds” because it deals with the many Torah laws connected to planting. When the Talmud (Shabath 31a) designates a name depicting the character of each of the six orders of the mishna, the order of “seeds” receives the name faith (Emuna).
The medieval Torah scholar and poet Yehuda Halevi in his book The Kuzari notices that the seed actually decomposes completely before it is transformed into a tender plant. He compares this with the fate of the Jewish people who became completely decomposed and scattered before the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of the Temple. On a personal level, we can learn from the nature of seeds that when things seem most dark and devastating it is only the dark before the dawn. The more hopeless the situation, the closer is its gratifying solution.
In my own life I continuously draw on the faith I receive from the decomposing seeds that get transformed into small saplings in my garden. Many people can testify that it is the crises in their lives, which they can thank for their great personal renewals and growth. Was it not for the difficulties we experience and the decomposing depression of feeling potentially unfulfilled, we would have never taken initiative to make important changes in the direction of our lives. To this day when times are rough I remind myself how great new beginnings surely are just around the corner.
The secret of TubShvat teaches us to view the current crisis in Israel, USA and the world in a new light. Instead of losing faith and giving in to the feelings of depression and despair, we need to realize that although we can no longer hold on to the walls that are crumbling down, the fallen structures give way to building new and infinitely higher strongholds. They teach us that we cannot rely on the ephemeral values of financial success, rather we must rebuilt our world founded on spiritual everlasting values, placing G-d in the center of our aspirations for true morality. May the decomposing seeds of the present darkness take root in new and richer soil, and may we enjoy the fruits of the renewed perfected world.