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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
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Tu B’Shevat, Human Beings, And Trees


In the Holy Temple, the daily incense offering (sense of smell) was elevated to the once-a-year Yom Kippur offering in the Holy of Holies. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 93a) also says that when the Messiah comes, he will “smell and judge” – that is, he will use his spiritual sensitivity to determine the truth about complex matters.

Fire: A tree also needs fire – sunshine – to survive. The absorption of energy from the sunlight activates the process of photosynthesis, a chemical reaction essential for the growth and health of the tree.

People too need the physical warmth of fire and sunshine to survive. But we also need to absorb and reflect the spiritual warmth and sunshine of friendship, which is the essence of Judaism. As the Torah states in Vayikra 19:18, “Love your friend as yourself.” Rabbi Akiva states that this verse is the greatest principle of the Torah (Talmud Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9).

Rabbi Efraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

About the Author: Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.


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The Talmud (Berachot 26b) says, “tefillot avot tiknum” – “prayer was established by the avot.” The Talmud then uses the following verse (Bereshit 19:27) to prove how Avraham established prayer: “Vayaskem Avraham baboker el hamakom asher amad sham et pnei Hashem” – “And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before God.”

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