Shabbat Parashat Beshalach| 5763
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l
“He Planted an Eshel in Be’er Sheva”
In honor of Tu Bishvat
Avraham, the first of the forefathers of our nation, showed his connection to the Land by planting. “He planted an eshel in Be’er Sheva,” (Bereishit 21:33). When Avraham settled the Land, he felt that he needed to do an action to strengthen his connection to it. It was not enough to breathe the air of the land or make use of that which was on its surface. Rather, he wanted to connect himself to the land through something living and growing whose nourishment was from the land. Thus, he planted the first tree of the first “Hebrew” in his land.
Indeed, planting is a sign that one is an inhabitant of an area on a more than transient basis. When Yirmiyah prophesied about an extended exile in Bavel, he said: "Plant orchards and eat their fruit” (Yirmiyah 29:5). In other words, you will be there long enough that you should set down roots.
In the past, when we were in Chutz La’aretz, we symbolized our connection to the land by eating its fruits. Even in our blessings after eating, we connect our return to the Land to the eating of its fruit. We say: “Bring us up to its [Israel’s] midst, and we shall eat its fruit and be satiated by its bounty, and we will bless you for it.”
Baruch Hashem, we made it here, and we put down strong stakes. We have glorious houses and courtyards and have filled the breadth of the Land with vegetation. We have thanked Hashem for this and we can continue to plant with the hope that we will be blessed to eat the future fruit and be satiated by them. How great is the blessing, the holiness, and the purity which should uplift our spirits in times like this.
Yet, there is also another side to the coin. While one explanation of eshel is an orchard, another is an inn, with eshel serving as an acronym for eating, drinking, and escorting. The flourishing of the Land and its capture from foreign control is not a present just for us and our children. When we plant today we must think of the thousands of our Jewish brethren who are “in troubles and captivity.” These are people whose eyes are turned toward this Land, tens of thousands of hungry people, affected horribly by disgrace, poverty, and suffering. We should remember that we are just the pioneer group whose job it is to prepare the area for the rest of the nation to follow.
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