Illumination From the Darkness
B’Shevat-Trees of Life
Shalom and Bracha!
Thursday, January 16th, is Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth
day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. The Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah
states that the fifteenth of Shevat is the Rosh Hashanah for
trees. This is because the sap begins to flow again after the
winter. Although the Gemarrah is referring to the agricultural
laws of tithing and Shemittah, throughout the world Tu B’Shevat
is celebrated as a holiday by not saying Tachanun and by eating
special fruits. It is customary to make the blessing on the
fruits for which Israel is famous, namely grapes, pomegranates,
figs, olives and dates. It is also customary to eat a new fruit
and make the blessing “Shehechiyanu,” which shows our gratitude
that Hashem has us and allowed us to reach this day. Using
fruits to make blessings is a form of supplication to Hashem
that He should bless the fruits of this year and by making the
blessing on fruits connected with Israel we enhance Hashem’s
blessing and protection of the land. The Talmud teaches that the
prosperity of all agriculture in the world is channeled through
Israel and by making a blessing on fruits connected to Israel we
bring a blessing to the entire world. It is desirable to have a
gathering and make the blessings together. Unity always brings
blessing and adds to the festive spirit. Further, it creates an
opportunity to include others who might not celebrate the
holiday. The gathering can be Wednesday night or Thursday.
New Year for trees has important lessons for each of us. A
person is compared to a tree. Just as a tree constantly grows, a
person must constantly progress. A person is also meant to bear
fruits. It is not sufficient that we grow ourselves; we must
also affect our surroundings. Just as a tree bears fruit from
year to year, we mustn’t be satisfied with our effect on the
world until now. We must keep giving and doing and growing.
entire Jewish people are compared to a tree. Although each
branch grows in its own direction, they are all part of one
tree. The strength of each limb of the tree aids the entire
tree, and the weakness of any limb effects the other limbs.
Whatever directions we take, we are one people. When we
strengthen each other, we strengthen ourselves. This is alluded
to in the name of the month, Shevat. The word Shevat is related
to the Hebrew Shevet, which means branch.
Gemarrah tells us that fruits represent Mitzvot. When a tree
bears fruit, it doesn’t lose its power to bear fruit, but
instead grows. When we do a Mitzvah, even if it seems difficult
or costly, Hashem repays us and gives us the strength to perform
another Mitzvah. When we plant a seed, we don’t see the fruits
for a very long time. However, from one seed grows a tree that
produces thousands of fruits each year, each capable of
producing new trees. We don’t always see the effect of the
Mitzvot that we do. However, Hashem nurtures them and they bear
fruit for us, our children and all of those who follow.
Hashem grant that this Tu B’Shevat usher in a new era of joy,
healing, new growth and prosperity, particularly inIsrael. The Tanya explains that all
of the good things that will occur when Moshiach comes are a
direct result of our service of Hashem in Galut (exile). Each
Mitzvah is a seed, whose fruit we will see at that time. May the
joy of redemption replace the pain of exile immediately!
blessing for fruit that grows on trees is Baruch Atta Adonai
Eloheinu Melech Haolam Borei P’ree Haeitz
blessing Shehechiyanu for new fruits is Baruch Atta Adonai
Eloheinu Melech Haolam Shehechiyanu V’Kiy’manu V’higyanu Lizman
Yitro – Illumination From the Darkness
Shalom and Bracha!
This Shabbat we read the portion of Yitro, the giving of the
Torah on Mount Sinai. Yitro was Moshe’s father in law, who left
Midian and joined the Jewish people for the receiving of the
Torah. The naming of the portion after Yitro rather than Moshe
gives a deep insight into the giving of the Torah. Yitro had
served all of the idols in the world and was knowledgeable in
their belief systems. Upon hearing the miracles of the Exodus he
declared now I know that Hashem is greater than all gods. The
Zohar teaches that this praise echoed in all of the spheres of
heaven and Hashem responded that now is the time to give the
Torah. Why was Yitro’s praise so important? Having served every
negative force in the world, his subjugation implied the
readiness of every aspect of the world to be perfected by Torah.
If there were lower forces Yitro hadn’t interacted with, those
forces would not have been included in his submission to Hashem.
This teaches us that nothing can stand in the way of our service
of Hashem and following the commandments of the Torah.
deeper translation would be “I appreciate Hashem’s greatness
through all other forces,” meaning that every force he
worshipped allowed him a deeper understanding of Hashem. This is
alluded to in Rashi’s comment that Yitro saw in each of the
plagues and punishments Midah Kneged Midah (measure for
measure), the correlation of the punishments to a different
negative trait or deed of the Egyptians. The converse thereof is
that he perceived that each evil of the Egyptians resulted in an
opportunity to reveal Hashem’s greatness. This is very
significant to the giving of the Torah, because the Torah allows
us to see the light beyond the darkness and through the darkness
and transmute the darkness into light.
Acts of kindness are done in there truest sense when we feel
that the needs of the other party are our needs. The act of
giving enriches the benefactor more than the recipient.
The Semak (a famous codifier) explains that the first of the
Ten Commandments includes the faith in Moshiach. When the Torah
says “I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of Egypt,” it is a
commandment to believe in G-d and that He will redeem us from
every exile. Through seeing the light in every darkness may we
speedily see that all of the tribulations of the exile were
preparations for the great revelations connected to the coming
In memory of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. T’hei Nishmato
Tzrurah Btzror Hachaim Im Hashem
Project of Chabad of Great Neck
East Shore Rd. Great Neck NY 11024
4874554 fax 516 4874807