Torah Fax
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 - 3 Sivan, 5766

Earliest Tefillin (latest of the week) 4:29 AM
Latest Shma (earliest of the week) 9:10 AM
Make and Eiruv Tavshillin
Candle Lighting Time (6/1): 8:03 PM
Candle Lighting (6/2)*:before 8:03 PM
*from a pre-existing flame

Yom Tov ends (6/3): 9:13 PM
Of Fruits and Trees
In many Jewish communities there is a custom to decorate the synagogues with flowers and leaves of trees during the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. One of the reasons for this practice is the fact that our Sages tell us that G‑d judges the fruits trees on Shavuot.
But if on Shavuot the fruits are judged, why then do we not have custom to eat fruit on Shavuot as we do on Tu B'Shvat , the New Year for Trees? For that matter, why do we have a custom to eat fruits on Tu Bishvat? If that day is the New Year for trees, why don't we decorate our homes and synagogues with tree branches?
One answer offered by the commentators to this question is: A person is likened to a tree (as the Torah itself states, "A man is the tree of the field.") Our children are our fruits. There are times when we come before G‑d and say to Him: "when You judge me, and you realize that I am not that strong of a tree, please, G‑d, bear in mind the beautiful fruits I have borne. My children are so special that I, the tree, deserve to be blessed as well."
However, when we view ourselves as the fruits - children - of our parents, we can occasionally offer G‑d the reverse line of reasoning: we may feel that we (as fruits) are inadequate, but the tree (our parents and ancestors) remains strong and reliable. Thus, we can ask G‑d to bless the "fruits" in the merit of our strong and well-rooted "trees," our parents and grandparents.
On Tu B'shvat, when we focus on the trees, the custom is to eat fruit, as our way of pleading our own case before G‑d: preserve the tree because of the fruits; bless us because of our wonderful children. And on the day of Shavuot, when it is the fruits being judged by G‑d, we decorate the synagogues with tree branches as our way of pleading to G‑d to preserve the fruits because of the trees. We ask G‑d to bless our generation because of our strong progenitors in earlier times. 
In truth, Shavuot combines both messages. One highlight of Shavuot is the central role that the children (the "fruits") played in the giving of the Torah at Sinai. The Midrash relates that when G‑d was about to give the Torah to the Jewish people, He asked for guarantors. They offered their ancestors and their prophets, but G‑d did not accept them as credible guarantors that the Torah would always be preserved. Only when the Jewish people offered their children (their "fruits") as guarantors did G‑d consent to give them the Torah.
And yet, Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) begins with the statement: Moses received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua etc. We must remember that the Torah we have came to us from our fathers, who in turn received it from their fathers, going all the way back to Moses, who received it from G‑d at Sinai. Thus, Shavuot underscored the chain of our tradition that connects us with our ancestors.
This duality is actually a central theme of Judaism. On the one hand, we look back to the earlier generations for guidance. Each generation that is closer in time to the event of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai contains more of the "lightening" and "thunder" of that experience. And as we travel farther away from Sinai some of that original energy may be lost.
It is for this reason that the rabbis of the Talmud have the greatest respect for rabbis in earlier generations. For example, a Rabbi from the Talmud, known as an Amora (roughly from the time period of 200 - 500 CE) will never contradict the teachings of a rabbi from the Mishnah (those rabbis are known as Tannaim and were the major teachers from approximately 200 BCE - 200 CE). The mission of the Amoras in the Talmud is too clarify the words of the Tannaim and discuss new and unique cases that might have arisen after the time of the Mishnah, but they would never rule against a Tanna. Since the Tannaim were closer to the "source," the Sinai revelation, their opinions were held in the highest esteem.
On the other hand, as we approach the Messianic Age, at which time the essence of G‑d's Divine light will be manifest, there is a special advantage to the youngest generation. They are the closest to the unprecedented energy that will be generated at that time - a force that will break down all the barriers and obstacles that presently exist. Our youth is much more in touch with that energy.
Obviously, we have to balance these two concepts. We have to create a balance between the consistent and eternal traditions of our forebears and the vibrant and explosive energy of our youth.
In simple terms this means that we must constantly reinforce our connection with our past, with the revelation at Sinai, by strengthening our study of Torah and the observance of its Mitzvot. This connection with our legacy is represented by the image of the fruit recognizing that it comes from a sturdy tree.
But, simultaneously, we must recognize that while the fruit cannot grow in a vacuum, it grows from a tree, the ultimate goal of that tree is to produce fruits for the future. We must appreciate the superior spirituality of our children - unique to the generation ready to greet Moshiach - and allow them to infuse their energies into the ancient and eternal teachings of the Torah.
Moshiach Matters
The concept of redemption is intrinsically related to women. Our Sages teach that "In the merit of righteous women the Jews were redeemed from Egypt." The same applies to the future redemption, as it says, "As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders." The Ari writes that the generation of the ultimate Redemption will be a reincarnation of the generation of the exodus.Thus, the future redemption will also come as a result of the righteous women of that generation. (From a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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