Tu BShvat: Emulating the Divine
When the settlement of Magdiel celebrated its establishment, Rav Kook participated in the festivities. The ceremony include the planting of trees, and Rav Kook was given the honor of placing the first sapling in the ground. The organizers handed the rabbi a hoe with which to dig the hole, but he threw it aside and began digging with his bare hands.
Rabbi Zeev Gold, who was also in attendance, noticed that Rav Kook suddenly became all impassioned. His entire body seemed to quiver and shake, and his face looked like a burning flame, as he placed the sapling in the ground with awe and trepidation.
Rabbi Gold was quite baffled by Rav Kook’s behavior, and he asked him: ‘What is all the excitement about? Thank God, people plant hundreds of trees every day in Eretz Yisrael!’
Clinging to the Shechinah
The Rav replied, ‘When I held that tender sapling in my hand, I remembered the Midrash’s interpretation of the verse, “You shall follow the Eternal your God… and cling to Him” (Deut. 13:5).
|“Is it possible for flesh and blood to ascend to the heavens and cling to the Shechinah, about Whom it is written, ‘For the Eternal your God is a consuming fire’ (Deut. 4:24)? … Rather, [the explanation is as follows:] At the beginning of creation, the Holy One Blessed be He engaged in planting, as it says, ‘God planted a garden in Eden’ (Gen. 2:8). Similarly, when you enter in the Land, engage in planting first, as it is written, ‘When you shall come into the Land, and you shall plant all types of fruit trees’ (Lev. 19:23).” (Vayikra Rabbah 25:3)|
‘When I was about to put the sapling in the ground,’ Rav Kook explained, ‘I remembered these words and felt as if I was clinging to the Shechinah. Thus, I was overcome by fear and trembling.’
(From “An Angel Among Men“, by R. Simcha Raz, translated by R. Moshe Lichtman, pp. 273-274)
|Tu Bishvat: Every Creature Utters Its Song|
Reb Aryeh Levine (1885-1969), known as the “Tzaddik of Jerusalem,” recorded the following incident in his memoirs.
I recall the early days, after 1905, when God granted me the privilege to ascend to the Holy Land; and I arrived at Jaffa. There I first merited meeting our great master, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (of blessed memory), who greeted me with good cheer, as was his sacred custom to receive all people.
We chatted together on various Torah topics. After an earlyMinchah (the afternoon prayer-service), he went out, as was his custom, to stroll a bit in the fields and collect his thoughts. I accompanied him.
During the walk, I plucked a twig or a flower. Our great master was taken aback when he saw this. He told me gently:
|“Believe me – in all my days, I have been careful never to pluck a blade of grass or flower needlessly, when it had the ability to grow or blossom. You know the teaching of the Sages, that there is not a single blade of grass below, here on earth, which does not have a heavenly force above telling it, Grow!|
|“Every sprout and leaf of grass says something, conveys some meaning. Every stone whispers its inner message in its silence. Every creature utters its song [of praise for the Creator].”|
Those words, spoken from a pure and holy heart, engraved themselves deeply on my heart. From then on, I began to feel a strong sense of compassion for all things.
(Adapted from “A Tzaddik in Our Time” by R. Simcha Raz, pp. 108-109)
I Have planted a tree in G-d’s garden
A Tree that symbolizes me
In The garden G-d gave to His people
In Order for them to be free.
I Have watched it grow and blossom
Both me and the tree in the ground
And from the grandeur of its blooming
The deep meaning of Jewish life, I have found.
My Branches are reaching upwards
And I am sinking my roots in the soil
To Be reborn to the depth of my essence
Through Sacred effort, tilling and toil.
I feel Blessed to have heard G-d’s message
That the Holy Land is where I can grow
In abundance, knowledge and power
truly reaping all that I sow.
by Ariella Bracha Waldinger