“Days are coming when Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill the face of the earth like fruit…. It will be on that day that Hashem shall thresh from the surging river to the brook of Egypt and you will be gathered up one by one, oh Children of Israel. And it will be on that day that a great Shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria and those cast away in the land of Egypt will come, and they shall prostrate themselves to Hashem on the Holy Mountain in Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 27
Thus the navi, the prophet, predicts the homecoming of Am Yisrael.
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Why does the Torah so often relate prophesies of redemption to images of flowers and fruit? For example, we find in the second berachah of the Shemoneh Esrei that Hashem is referred to as a “a King Who…makes salvation unfold like a flower.” The fifteenth berachah in Shemoneh Esrei begins with “the flowering of David” and ends with “Who causes the flowering of salvation….”
Before I became observant, when I was running away from Hashem and His Torah, I used to think that nature was god. I wanted to believe that “Mother Nature” was an object of worship and truth, and that a person could find the essence of life by immersing himself in the natural world. This is real avodah zarah, idol worship. For one who worships idols, there are no rules. A tree does not tell us how to live. Only Hashem gives us a Torah.
Avodah zarah occurs when one attributes power to a creation of Hashem rather than Hashem Himself. As the navi says, “The woodcutter stretches a line and marks [the wood] with chalk…. It will be fuel for man; he will take from it and warm himself or even kindle a fire and bake bread. Yet he also makes a god and prostrates himself; he makes it a graven idol and bows to [it]. He burns half of it in fire, or with half he prepares meat to eat, roasting it and sating himself or he warms himself…. The rest of it he makes into a god as his graven image. He will bow to it and prostrate himself and pray to it and say, ‘Rescue me, for you are my god!’ ” (Isaiah 44)
Isaiah makes it all so obvious. The trick is to listen to the navi.
“Understand, you boors among the people, and you fools, when will you gain wisdom? He Who implants the ear, shall He not hear? He Who fashions the eye, shall He not see? He Who chastises nations, shall He not rebuke? (Psalm 94)
Dovid HaMelech tells us that nature is not an independent being. Rather (Psalm 19), “the heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork….” Thus, we can learn about the ways of Hashem from the operation of nature.
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What is Tu B’Shevat?
“Our Sages,” writes Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov in The Book of Our Heritage, “designated the Fifteenth of Shevat as the boundary between one year and another regarding fruit-bearing trees, for, by this date, most of the annual rain has already fallen. Fruits that grow after this date are therefore considered to be produce of a new year. Additionally, by the Fifteenth of Shevat, the soil is already saturated with the winter rains, so that trees planted after Tu B’Shevat are assured of taking firm root and producing fruit.”
This scenario seems to have been fulfilled in the Holy Land this year. After an exceedingly slow start to the rainy season, Eretz Yisrael was buffeted several weeks ago by what many were calling “the storm of the century.” At first a powerful rain fell, and then, at higher elevations, up to two or three feet of snow covered the ground. This amounted in a few days to about half the annual winter precipitation for a thirsty land.