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Something Fruity

Friday, 18 January, 2019 - 10:05 pm


Dear Friend,

I hope you had a week that was off the charts!

It was very gratifying to see the amazing turnout at the launch of 'Six Great Minds: One Thousand Years of Jewish Thought' as we relived the life, read multiple genres of poetry and delved deep into the Kuzari of Judah Halevi. The course continues this Tuesday night with the legendary Maimonides and his life and teachings. To reserve your spot click here.

On Monday, we will celebrate the 15th of Shvat otherwise known as 'Tu B'shvat'. Allow me to share a beautiful insight on this special day based on remarks I had the merit of hearing directly from the Rebbe.

[On a personal note, this teaching is especially memorable to me. Although the Rebbe was fluent in some eight languages, the default language for all his talks was Yiddish. At the age of 15, I was slowly picking up the language and had studied enough Chassidic thought to start picking up the concepts as well. As the Rebbe spoke that Tu B'shvat evening, I vividly remember piecing together the words and applying the concepts I was hearing and then- BOOM!- a whole new world opened up for me with nothing lost in translation. ]

The Rebbe began by noting that on Tu B'shvat we celebrate the seven species specified in the Torah that our holy land Israel is blessed with: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

These seven kinds combined represent, and find conceptual parallel to, a perfect lifetime in the service of G-d. The Rebbe then described each one.

Wheat and Barley:
The book of Tanya emphasizes that we are a composite of two powerful forces, the G-d soul and an animal soul. Wheat (bread) is considered the staple food of man; Barley is the staple food of the animal. In addition to unlocking the potential of the G-d soul within us, we look to 'train the animal'-our more mundane side- to appreciate spiritual pursuits as well, thus harnessing its power for good. 

Water is a necessity of life; wine is a luxury. As opposed to just doing the bare minimum in order to 'cover the bases' of Torah obligations, we are encouraged to observe the mitzvot 'Chassidically': by performing the mitzvahs with love, devotion and in a luxurious fashion. An example of this would be  investing in a high end Mezuzah, a special Etrog, etc.

Many of the commentaries on the Torah posit that the infamous 'Tree of Knowledge' was actually a fig tree. The proof is (Genesis 3:7) ...And they [Adam and Eve] sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loinclothes. The theory is that in their shame, they reached for the nearest foliage which happened to be from that very tree. Consequently, by addressing the 'fig', we are really rewiring ourselves not only to abstain from something prohibited but taking it one step further to address the root of our negativity, represented by the precedent for all sin.

At this point one might be feeling quite holy. Problem is that holy very often goes hand-in-hand with “holier than thou”. One of the reasons it is customary to partake of pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah is to be reminded of the Talmudic statement 'The sinners of Israel are loaded with Mitzvot as the pomegranate is loaded with seeds'. Simply stated, no matter your personal service, abstain from judging others. G-d has His own metric system.

Olives teach us to stay focused on our life’s spiritual mission even during bitter and crushing times. Getting on spiritual track is complicated enough; throw a debilitating challenge into the mix and it becomes near impossible.  But Oil (as opposed to grapes) is extracted with a press under high pressure, showing us that the best of us can come out when we are feeling squeezed. Staying on course and maintaining equilibrium through it all leads us to the final species...

The Zohar compares the different stages of a date palm’s path to full maturity to the human lifespan. This final stage represents a rich and full lifetime as described in the book of Tehillim (Psalms 93) “A righteous person shall flourish as the date palm.”

May we merit to lead a life full of seeds and flowering fruit! 

I hope you enjoyed this small bit of Chassidic inspiration. A practical takeaway: Raizy and I encourage you to stop by the office on Tu Bshvat morning (Monday Jan 21) for a buffet of exotic fruit, as is customary. We look forward to seeing you. For kids ages 4 and up, our monthly CKids event will be taking place from 10:30-11:00 am. Sign up by clicking here.

With blessing that all your wishes for good take root,

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Shmuel Metzger




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