Is it a coincidence that this climactic Torah Portion, in which the Children of Israel meet Hashem at Mount Sinai, should fall out during the week of T’U b’Shevat (The New Year of Trees)? Well that question is of course unnecessary, because there are no coincidences.
My study partner, Rabbi Yehuda Schiff Shlita”h, showed me a Ramban on the Torah Portion Bo which tells us that: “a person has no share in the Torah of Moses our Teacher unless he believes that all our affairs and experiences are miracles …. There is [no such thing as] ‘the ordinary course of the world.’” (Ramban on Exodus 13:16) We learn from the Exodus from Egypt that Hashem controls everything. The extraordinary miracles which took place in Egypt serve to show us that the entire “everyday” conduct of nature and everything that happens in this world emanate directly from Hashem’s will.
T’U B’Shevat’s remarkable legacy is that, during the winter, when the earth is frozen, animals are hibernating and all nature appears dead, this is not the real story. The real story is that the sap hidden within the trees is starting to flow at precisely this moment. The hidden rebirth, Resurrection of the Dead, the ascent from death, the salvation of the world always begins in a hidden manner. “And Rabbi Yitzchak said: Blessing is not found except in something that is hidden from the eye.” (Taanis 8b; Bava Metzia 42a)
T’U b’Shevat is the day “when the sap rises in the trees…” (Bnai Yissaschar, quoted in Book of Our Heritage)
Does anyone see the sap rise?
Only Hashem knows when the hidden explosion of salvation – the cosmic moment of our Great Redemption – is beginning, concealed from all eyes. All nature imitates Hashem, the Ultimate Hidden One. Similarly, our Rabbis say about holy people: “Who is destined for a share in the World to Come? One who is modest and humble, who enters bowing and leaves bowing, who learns Torah constantly, but doesn’t take credit for himself.” (Sanhedrin 88b)
Everything holy is hidden. This character trait is exactly opposed to the society which surrounds us, which is obsessed with publicity, pushiness and “me first.” My friends, the news is disastrous on every level. Now they are outlawing shechita (kosher slaughtering) in Europe. Next they will try to outlaw every other mitzvah until they try to outlaw those who perform mitzvos, G-d forbid.
But the sap is rising in the trees and the rains are pouring down on the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). Our secret springs of blessing are pouring down from Heaven, and this is all a prelude to the Redemption we are all awaiting. As I quoted recently, “when the wicked bloom like grass and all doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them till eternity…” (Psalm 92)
The world thinks it is close to the moment when they will solve the “Jewish Problem” forever. Little do they know that, where no one can see, the sap of redemption is rising in the Tree of Life, and the day is dawning when we will hear “for a second time in the presence of all the living … ‘I am Hashem your G-d!’” (Mussaf Shabbos Kedusha)
The sap is flowing in the trees.