According to Dr. Amos Porat of the Israeli Meteorological Service, rainfall in Israel this winter has been 120 to 200 percent over the normal level, depending on location. This is important for more than agricultural reasons, because rain is a “siman bracha,” a sign of blessing, and Israel seems to be receiving much blessing this winter.
This is interesting, because one would think exactly the opposite. Israel – and Jews in general - are increasingly hated around the world. Israel – and Jews in general -- are on the receiving end of increasing violence around the world. Headlines are increasingly ominous. Crises loom wherever we look, but this basic barometer of blessing seems to be pointing in the opposite direction.
“Remember the twelve tribes You caused to cross the split waters, for whom You sweetened the water’s bitter taste. Their offspring whose blood was spilled for You like water. Turn to us, for woes engulf our souls like water. For the sake of their righteousness, grant abundant water! For blessing and not for curse! For life and not for death! For plenty and not for scarcity!” (Prayer for Rain)
I believe that we should focus on this phenomenon, because it indicates a source of stability in a chaotic environment. The world may appear to be falling apart, but that doesn’t mean G-d has deviated, from His plan of bringing the final redemption. Quite the opposite: the chaos is a sign of imminent redemption, and we should be strengthened by reminding ourselves of the certainty of His intention to rescue His children.
“For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us, and the authority will rest on his shoulders … to establish the throne of David … from now to eternity. The zealousness of G-d, Master of Legions, will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:5-6; Haftaras Yisro)
This week we read of the world-changing events at Mount Sinai. In certain respects, this Torah portion is the highlight of the entire Five Books of Moses. The meeting of the Children of Israel with the L-rd of the Universe is the central fact of our existence. No other nation has experienced nor will any other nation ever experience this. Our eternal existence as a People united with our Creator is forever linked to this moment. The awe has never left us, and never will.
It is vital to remember that only a few weeks earlier, we had been at the forty-ninth level of impurity, buried in Biblical Egypt’s degraded culture. Egypt itself was exploding and crumbling, and we were locked inside this powerful and doomed civilization.
We should view our own world in the light of these incredible scenes. We should not be blinded by the chaotic nature of the present world so that we lose sight of the unshakable plan which is unfolding around us, unseen by those who do not possess Torah insight. “A boor cannot know, nor a can a fool understand this: when the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them until eternity.” (Psalm 92)
This week we celebrate T’u b’Shevat - the New Year of the Trees. Rabbi Eliahu Kitov writes, “T’U b’Shevat bespeaks praise of the Land of Israel, for on this day the strength of the soil of the Land of Israel is renewed and it begins to yield its produce and demonstrate its inherent goodness… The day on which the soil receives renewed strength to give forth its bounty is a day of rejoicing for the people of Israel, who till the land, who love it and who yearn for it.” (Book of Our Heritage)
However, this renewal is hidden from the eye. In order to understand the blessing, one has to see through Torah lenses, which reveal what transpires beneath the surface. As the Talmud tells us, “Blessing is not found except in something hidden from the eye.” (Taanis 8b)
And so, in the realm which is only revealed through Torah, we know that, despite the chaotic and terrible events shown on the mass media, the blessings are in fact building up to become a mighty force which can never be influenced or deflected in the slightest degree by the machinations of those who would try to thwart G-d’s plan. Does anyone see the sap rising in the trees? No, but the Master of the Universe is bringing new life to this world. Nothing can stop it, certainly not the strident yelling and screaming of our enemies. They think that they have the power to thwart the designs of the King of the Universe, but they are so mistaken!
Do they think they can stop this? “On the third day when it was morning, there was thunder and lightning and a heavy cloud on the mountain and the sound of the ram’s horn was very powerful, and the entire people that was in the camp shuddered. Moses brought the people forth from the camp toward G-d and they stood at the bottom of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was smoking because G-d had descended upon it in the fire … and the entire mountain shuddered exceedingly. The sound of the ram’s horn grew continually much stronger. Moses would speak and G-d would respond to him with a Voice.” (Exodus 19:16ff)
My friends, does anyone doubt that this will happen again? Anyone who thinks will understand that certainly “He will let us hear, in His compassion, for a second time in the presence of all the living … ‘to be a G-d to you, I am G-d, your G-d.’” (Shabbos Mussaf Kedusha)
If we view the world through Torah eyes, we will understand that the greatest events in history are about to unfold. May all who love G-d and His Torah be worthy soon to witness the realization of these everlasting promises. Nothing can deter their fulfillment.
“G-d is with me; I shall not fear.” (Adon Olam)