But in order to reach great heights, the roots must become ever stronger and deeper. That means a man must root himself securely, establishing habits of Torah study, clean living and honorable relationships among his peers. His middos and ma’asim tovim must be beyond reproach and he must be beloved by his fellow man for integrity and an “ayin tovah,” a good eye that radiates friendship and chesed. As his roots become stronger, he has the foundation to grow ever taller and reach up to Heaven for sustenance from Above. He is coming ever closer to his Creator.
In our davening for Mashiach we say: “May You cause the offspring of David, Your servant, speedily to flower, and his pride may You exalt through Your salvation…. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who causes the pride of salvation to flourish.”
Isn’t this interesting language?
We are asking for Mashiach to “flower.”
It sounds as though Chazal, when they established the berachah for Mashiach, envisioned the growth of a tree, but they took it a step further than roots and branches. They envisioned the fruit. Let’s return to Gan Eden and remember that there, in the beginning of time, we subsisted on the fruit of the tree.
As man stands with his feet rooted in this world and his head in the Shamayim, he connects heaven and earth like the ladder of our father Yaakov. And there is a result from this: he produces fruit that sustains mankind and allows us to live. Fruit from a tree is a complete blessing, different from all other food, and perhaps that is why it was the food in Gan Eden.
When you eat the fruit of a tree, nothing is killed and nothing is lost. The tree remains standing and healthy; it just gives of itself to sustain you and you take nothing away from it, like a flame that is not diminished when you light another candle. This is different from all other food. Fruits of the ground – “borei pri ha’adamah” – require that the plant be uprooted. For example, a potato plant or a beet or a carrot is entirely uprooted when you harvest it; the plant is finished. This is even clearer in the case of meat, which of course requires that the animal be slaughtered before it sustains mankind.
But not so “borei pri ha’etz,” the fruit of the tree. This is perfect food, which sustains us while continuing to flourish and grow. And this is the , whose feet are planted on the ground and whose head is in Shamayim. He sustains the world without taking anything away from himself. In fact, by sustaining the world he strengthens himself and continues to grow.
The tree is a model for a tzaddik. On Tu B’Shevat, winter is ending; life is beginning to flow once again as the earth begins to feel the warmth of the sun. The sap in the trees begins to flow, the buds appear, and soon spring blossoms will burst open. In the summer, beautiful fruits will appear to sustain mankind.
Soon, “a staff will emerge from the stump of Yishai and a shoot will sprout from his roots. The spirit of Hashem will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of Hashem” (Yeshayah 11:1).
Roy Neuberger’s latest book, “2020 Vision” (Feldheim), is available in English, Hebrew and Spanish, with French and Russian editions in preparation. Roy is also the author of “From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul” (available in English, Hebrew and Russian) and “Worldstorm.” Roy and his wife speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at [email protected] or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com.