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Fruit. It's come a long way!
In years gone by we were advised, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." The latest dietary guidelines call for five to 13 servings of fruits (and vegetables) a day (2½ to 6½ cups per day), depending on one's caloric intake. According to nutrition-and-you.com "Fruits are nature's wonderful medicines packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and many phyto-nutrients (Plant derived micronutrients)....
Fruits provide plenty of soluble dietary fiber..."
So, except for when it's been tampered with by people, fruit is a healthy choice. The numerous varieties of fruit also share two other qualities: they are naturally sweet and delicious and they have seeds.
Jewish teachings refer to mitzvot (commandments) as "fruit."
In order for our mitzvot to be like edible fruit, they too have to be healthy, free of additives, untainted by ego, one-upmanship or a holier-than-thou attitude.
The fact that a fruit contains seeds means that it is able to reproduce. The seeds from a piece of fruit grow into a tree which bears fruit. Those fruits decompose and then the seeds germinate. They grow into saplings and eventually into new, fruit-bearing trees. This chain, the first link of which goes all the way back to the beginning of the world, continues eternally.
Mitzvot must "contain seeds." Our mitzvot should produce other mitzvot - they should inspire within ourselves and within others the desire and the ability to increase in Jewish living.
Moreover, mitzvot are eternal. And, like fruit trees, they link us not only to the future but to the past, as well.
It is not for naught that the first mitzva in the Torah, given to the first people, was "Be fruitful and multiply." For, it is truly a basic and prime mitzva to bring forth another Jew, to create - physically or spiritually - another person who him/herself will do fruit-bearing mitzvot, ad infinitum.
Finally, mitzvot like fruit, are sweet. They satisfy our "craving" for the most delicious things in life - loving kindness, a relationship with G-d, a sense of community, transcending our mundane existence, wisdom.
In the Garden of Eden, all trees bore fruit. The Midrash teaches that in times of Moshiach, when all of creation will return to its perfect state, all trees will once again bear fruit - healthy fruit, sweet and delicious fruit, fruit producing fruit.
There is no "Institute" or "Association" that has set limits to or recommended daily allowances for our mitzvot observance. Surely if we attempt to perform as many mitzvot as possible each day, and even more, we will soon merit to experience the perfection of the world in the final Redemption.
As we read in this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, the Jewish people engaged in two conflicts on their way to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. One was a battle against Pharaoh, and the other was a war against Amalek.
In connection to the war against Pharaoh G-d told the Jews, "G-d will fight for you and you should hold your peace." However, when it came to the war against Amalek, G-d said, "Go out and fight against Amalek."
In what way did the two wars differ? Why did G-d fight for the Jewish people in one instance, yet command them to fight for themselves in the other?
Pharaoh and his army were not preventing the Jews from reaching Mount Sinai. In fact, the Egyptians were massed behind them, blocking their way back to Egypt. Amalek, by contrast, presented the Jews with an obstacle on their way to receiving the Torah. Amalek was trying to prevent their advance. For this reason G-d commanded them to "Go out and fight against Amalek."
Whenever someone tries to prevent a Jew from accessing the Torah, the greatest efforts must be made to fight against him. True, waging war goes against the nature of the Jewish people; the verse "by your sword you shall live" was said to Esau, not to Isaac. But if fighting is necessary, we are obligated to do so.
The victory of the Children of Israel against Amalek transcended the laws of nature. According to nature, Amalek should have prevailed. But the Jewish people weren't fighting out of a sense of personal power and strength. They went to war with the knowledge that they were Moses' emissaries, that they were fighting to receive the Torah. And when a Jew fights with the power of Torah behind him he will succeed.
Amalek confronted the Jews at a time when they were enthusiastic and were eager to reach Mount Sinai. Amalek attempted to cool off that enthusiasm, to dampen their ardor for receiving the Torah. Amalek "met you (korcha) by the way" - from the Hebrew word for coldness, "kor."
It is a mitzva to remember Amalek each and every day. In the spiritual sense, "Amalek" is anything that discourages our enthusiasm for serving G-d.
From the Biblical war against Amalek we learn how to defeat him in the spiritual sense. Whenever something threatens to cool off our enthusiasm for G-dliness and holiness, we must do all in our power to vanquish the enemy and crush it completely.
Furthermore, in the spiritual battle against Amalek we must remember that the power with which we act is not our own. And when we fight with the power of Torah, we will certainly achieve our goal.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 1
Tapping the Source
By Shoshana Zohari
When I look deep inside and consider my way of life, I can't honestly say that I started doing this for all the right reasons. I became Torah-observant because my husband wanted to live a religious Jewish lifestyle. We attended an amazing Chabad House before we were married, and the rabbi and rebbetzin shared a lot about what it takes to have a Torah marriage: keeping all of the Shabbat laws; maintaining a strictly kosher home; covering my hair after the wedding; learning and observing the laws of Family Purity.
It was a lot of nuts and bolts - each one necessary to ensure that the life we planned together would run in a smooth and Torah-acceptable way.
Judaism had been of profound importance to me throughout my life, so of course I agreed to abide by all of the rules. And I meant it, too. But taking it to this new level was a commitment of the mind more than one of the heart. After all, I felt that I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose by setting off for these new and uncharted lands. If that was the fare for this ride, then I was willing to pay it - if not for myself, then at least out of love for my future husband.
We got married and built a life together in which we became more and more religious, eventually adopting a Chabad-Chasidic lifestyle. I grew into my role as a Torah-observant woman and found great meaning in it, especially as each of our four children came along. Despite my own deep personal growth as a wife and mother, I had not yet taken ownership of my soul-journey. My spiritual path was merely something attached to the other people in my life - husband, children, and community. My search for greater self-actualization was coming up short and my sense of Jewish connectedness was starting to slip.
So I took what seemed like a very novel approach: I literally asked G-d to send some good people to raise me up. And that's how I joined the Bais Chana family. The details and Divine Providence are just too complicated to describe - which is usually the case in instances of true Divine intervention. In short: G-d sent the Bais Chana teen program right into my own backyard, and He tapped me to be their local expert on all things Colorado.
Swept into a whirlwind of work and excitement that completely consumed me, I felt a passion for this group and its goals that I had never experienced before. An unconditional love for these young Jewish women blossomed inside me causing my soul to flow with an internal strength that I had not yet experienced since becoming Torah observant so many years before.
The ultimate gift came when some very generous people made it possible for me to attend the women's program that was held in Bais Chana's hometown of S. Paul, Minnesota immediately after the teen program ended. An immersion that was at once nurturing and challenging - as well as completely non-judgmental - I was free to try out my new wings of Jewish pride. It was four days of learning, talking, praying, and connecting. We were all in it together and no woman was prepared to let another slip for lack of love or support. Those four days sealed what had been a summer of tremendous personal growth. When I returned to home and family, our lives became infused with the confidence and delight that Bais Chana gave me when it tapped my soul.
Several years later we were invited by Hinda Leah Sharfstein, Executive Director of Bais Chana, to join the Jewish Uncamp in rural Wisconsin. We were situated in a small Jewish retreat center that had once been a working farm. What had once been the barn was now a rustic dining hall and shul where we ate all of our meals, delved into artwork, and sang late into the night. Literally cut off from civilization for a month - cell-phones silent, internet connections down due to our remoteness - it was the quintessential Bais Chana experience. Rabbi Manis Friedman and the counselors included each "camper" on her own level and found just the right blend of learning, compassion, and challenges to bring out new facets of her mind and soul.
Thank G-d, my husband - Nachshon Zohari, LCSW - was able to join us for the last weekend of the camp. He gave a talk to the young women that focused on finding your essential self and how each person can direct her life's journey more thoughtfully. That was just the first of many teaching and counseling sessions that Nachshon has led at Bais Chana. He is now one of the main presenters at Bais Chana's cutting edge program for Single Jewish Moms. This fabulous retreat takes place twice a year - only for women raising kids (from infants to adult children) on their own.
No matter how a woman became a single mom, Bais Chana is there to support, educate and empower her. Participants are in for five stress-free days, delicious super-healthy meals and an array of workshops on parenting, Jewish spiritual teachings, financial planning, dating and relationship counseling, all led by expert educators and facilitators. Generous donors are making this retreat possible for these special families, at the moment when they need it most.
G-d certainly knew what we needed all those years ago when Bais Chana came knocking on our door. I hope that my husband and I will continue participating in whatever way possible to make sure that every woman and teenage girl can benefit from the un-paralleled Bais Chana experience.
Nachshon and Shoshana Zohari live in Denver, Colorado with their four children. Their family has been homeschooling for 10 years. Nachshon Zohari, LCSW is an expert in substance abuse treatment, parenting education, and personal growth. Find out more about his private practice and his work with Bais Chana by visiting his website at zohari.typepad.com. Shoshana provides homeschooling support to other Jewish families through her website at sustainable-jewish-schooling.blogspot.com.
Due to a production error, the photo of George (Yosef Mordechai) Gati that was to appear together with his article in the Slice of Life section in L'Chaim issue 1254 was replaced by a different photo. The correction photo of Mr. Gati appears here. We look forward to publishing more articles by Mr. Gati in the future accompanied by the correct photo!
Freely translated and adapted
Tuesday, 21 Shevat, 5704 
Greetings and blessings,
...Many concepts can also be learned from the festival of this month [15 Shevat], the New Year of the Trees. A person who pays attention to everything that occurs around him can add to his wisdom from every matter that happens, improving his relations with G-d and with his colleagues. This does not apply only to exceptional matters. Instead, even commonplace matters like a tree which grows can provide directives for a person's daily life.
To point out several:
Most members of the plant kingdom, and trees in particular, are composites of many elements. In general, their compo-nents can be placed in three categories:
the roots; the body of the tree (its trunk, branches, and leaves), and its fruit (which contains the peel, the fruit itself, and its seeds).
The difference between them can be explained as follows:
The roots are hidden from an observer's sight, but they are the medium which provide the fundamental vitality for the tree. (The leaves do, however, enable the tree to absorb certain components from the air which are necessary for their existence and they acquire the heat from the sun's rays.) Moreover, it is the roots which enable the trees to stand firmly. If a tree's roots are strong, there is no fear that the stormiest winds will uproot it.
The body of the tree - This represents the major portion of the tree's structure. From time to time, the thickness of the branches and the number of leaves increases; through this, and in particular, from the trunk of the tree, we can discern the tree's age.
The ultimate purpose of the tree, however, is the production of fruit, for from the seeds in the fruit can be planted new trees for generation after generation.
A man is "a tree of the field." Thus there are certain particulars in which a person resembles a tree. This applies even with regard to his spiritual service. Here, too, there are three categories:
The roots - This corresponds to faith which connects a person the source of his vitality, the Creator, blessed be He. Although the person grows in the wisdom of the Torah and its mitzvos (commandments), his vitality is drawn down to him through his faith in G-d, His religion, and His Torah.
The trunk and body of the tree - This refers to the study of the Torah and the performance of the mitzvos and good deeds. These must constitute the majority of the structure and the largest quantity of a person's deeds and activities. Through the abundance of his mitzvos and his greatness in Torah, the years of a person's life can be recognized, i.e., a life full of content of wisdom and deed.
The fruit - A person's ultimate fulfillment comes when - in addition to fulfilling all of his individual responsi-bilities, he influences his colleagues and his surrounding environment, leading them toward fulfillment. His activities are "seeds" which sprout other trees (people) who have roots (the fundamentals of faith), a trunk and branches (Torah and good deeds), and which bear fruit (bring merit to others).
The lesson from the above: The source of a person and his root are pure faith. A weakness of faith endangers the maintenance of even a great person's spiritual life.
The majority of a person's structure must be the good deeds which continually increase from day to day.
The consummate perfection of a person, however, is bearing fruit, i.e., that he should influence others and enable them to merit to fulfill their mission and the purpose for their creation. In this manner, his efforts bear fruit and the fruit bears fruit, generation after generation. And all this merit is dependent on him.
With the blessing, "Immediately to teshuvah, immediately to Redemption,"
From I Will Write it in Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos In English
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shira, when we read the Torah portion about the song - shira - of praise the Jews sang after crossing the Red Sea. Our Sages taught that the "Song of the Sea" hints at the Redemption. For it says, "Then Moses will sing with the Children of Israel..." From this verse our Sages derive the principle of the Resurrection of the Dead in the Messianic Era, when Moses and all the Jewish people will arise and sing G-d's praise.
However, the song we will sing will differ from the Song of the Sea as related in the following Midrash: "It will be said on that day: 'Behold, this is our G-d in whom we put our hope... this is the L-rd for whom we hoped...'"
We say "this" when something is in front of our eyes. When the Jews said, "This is my G-d," after the Splitting of the Sea, it was because they actually saw G-d, as it were. They were able to see with their eyes and point to Him and say, "This is my G-d." But in the future, there will be an additional revelation, therefore we will sing "this" twice.
At the Red Sea, there was a revelation of G-d's unlimited power and a supernatural event took place. But this type of revelation has a deficiency; the world could not contain it. It was possible only because G-d created a situation at that instant in which His unlimited power could be revealed. Thus, when the revelation and the miracle passed, the world had not changed at all.
But there is a second type of revelation, when the world's essence is revealed for what it truly is - G-d's energy. G-d reveals that the laws of nature themselves, and even the entire material world - are pure G-dliness.
The advantage of this kind of revelation is that it is within the limitations of the world, it is the truth of the world itself. When this truth is revealed, it is like solving a mystery. For, as soon as the mystery is solved, it is no longer a mystery. Similarly, once the G-dliness within the world is revealed, everyone sees that G-d directs and fills the whole world.
This type of revelation, the uncovering of all that is hidden, will take place in the future redemption. The world will reveal the truth that everything is only G-dliness.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Nachshon the son of Aminadav was the prince of the tribe of Judah. His sister, Elisheva, was married to Aaron. Nachshon was first to enter the waters of the Red Sea when the Egyptians pursued from behind. When it was up to his neck, he cried out to G-d to save the Jewish people and the sea split. Once the sea split, his fellow Jews followed after him. When the Sanctuary in the desert was completed, Nachshon was the first prince to bring a sacrifice and donation.
G-d will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace (Ex. 14:14)
G-d will only fight your battle on the condition that you "hold your peace" - remain quiet and avoid controversy and disagreement amongst yourselves.
This is my G-d and I will glorify him (Ex. 15:2)
The Commentator Rashi explains this to mean, "I will declare His beauty and His praise." This verse teaches us that we must always strive to perform mitzvot (commandments) in the most beautiful and sincere manner possible. A mitzva's beauty lies in the purity of our intent. We should be motivated to carry out G-d's will for its own sake and not for personal reasons or self-glorification.
And G-d showed him a tree (Ex. 15:25)
The Midrash explains that G-d uses bitter to sweeten bitter. The wood of the tree that sweetened the bitter waters was also bitter, but the end result was sweet and the water was made drinkable. So it is with human nature. When a person in a depressed and bitter mood sees someone even worse off than him, he realizes that his life is really not as bad as he thought.
Many years ago in the Land of Israel, there lived a man named Reb Nisim. He and his family lived in a small stone house, very much like all the other houses in his village, with one exception. Next to his house there grew the most beautiful tree, which produced a crop of luscious pomegranates. People traveled from far and wide to purchase these special "Nisim" fruit. In fact, they were so much in demand that the family was able to live all year on the profits they made from selling these pomegranates.
Every summer the tree was heavy with the beautiful, red fruits. But one summer not even one pomegranate could be seen. Reb Nisim called his eldest son and told him, "Climb up to the top of the tree; perhaps there are some fruits there that we don't see." The boy climbed to the top, and indeed, hidden from view were three precious fruits - the most beautiful they had ever seen.
When Shabbat came, Reb Nisim put two of the pomegranates on the table for a special Shabbat treat. The third, he put away to eat on the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of the Trees.
That was a difficult year for the family, as they had always depended on the tree for their livelihood. Finally Reb Nisim's wife suggested that he travel outside the Holy Land to earn or raise some money. He was very reluctant to leave. He had lived his entire life surrounded by the holiness of the Land of Israel, and he didn't want to "shame" the land by admitting that he could not make a livelihood there. He tried in various ways to earn some money, but every effort met with failure, and it seemed that he had no choice but to do as his wife had suggested. "All right," he said. "I will go, but I will never reveal to any soul that I come from the Holy Land."
For many months he traveled from city to city, but each place had its own poor to support, and he had no luck. Since it is a great mitzva (commandment) to support the poor of the Land of Israel, he would have received alms had he identified himself, but this he refused to do.
It was Tu B'Shevat when Reb Nisim arrived in the city of Koshta, Turkey. When he came to the local synagogue, a shocking sight met his eyes. All the Jews of the city were gathered there, weeping, mourning and reciting Psalms. "What has happened?" asked Reb Nisim, in alarm.
The sexton of the synagogue explained, "The son of the Sultan is very ill. He knows that Jews are accomplished doctors, and he has decreed that every Jew will be expelled from his realm unless we produce a doctor or a cure for his son. So far, we have failed." As Reb Nisim was absorbing this terrible news, the rabbi's assistant asked Reb Nisim to accompany him to the rabbi, saying, "Our rabbi says he is very happy to have a guest from the Holy Land."
Reb Nisim went as requested, but he was puzzled. How did the rabbi know? He had been so careful to tell no one where he was from. He decided to ask the rabbi directly.
"There is a special fragrance about you. I feel it is the holiness of the land which adheres to you," the rabbi replied.
"What you are smelling must be the fragrance of the pomegranate I have brought with me," Reb Nisim explained. "I carried it with me especially for Tu B'Shevat, and since that is today, I beg you to partake of it with me."
The rabbi was overjoyed. "Please, tell me your name," he asked.
"My name is Reb Nisim." When the rabbi heard that he smiled broadly. "This surely is a sign of Divine Providence. In honor of Tu B'Shevat, I have been studying about the different types of fruits that are described in the holy books." The rabbi described what he had learned. Then he said, "The acronym of the word 'rimonim' (pomegranates) is 'refua melech u'bno nisim yaviya meheira' - the recovery for the king and his son, Nisim will bring quickly. Let us bring some of your pomegranate juice to the king's son at once. Perhaps, in the merit of the fruits of the Holy Land, G-d will bring us success."
The two men were admitted to the room of sick prince, who was lying close to death. They approached the bed and administered a few drops of juice into the unconscious boy's mouth. Suddenly color rose into his pallid complexion. They gave him a few more drops, and there was a weak but unmistakable flicker of the prince's eyelids.
The Sultan grasped the hand of his beloved child, and tears of joy welled in his eyes. He turned to the two Jews and said, "I will never forget what you have done for my son."
The next day Reb Nisim and the rabbi were summoned to the palace. The prince was sitting up in bed, a happy smile on his tired face. The Sultan's servants brought in large velvet bags bulging with gold coins and jewels. "Reb Nisim, this is just a small token of my gratitude to you for having saved my son. As for the Jews in my realm, they may stay and live in peace."
Reb Nisim returned home laden with riches. The next summer, the wondrous pomegranate tree produced as many beautiful fruits as ever. Its fame spread as the story of the prince was retold throughout the Holy Land.
"Trees are destined to yield fruits every day." (Shabbat 30b) In the Messianic Era, produce will sprout, grow and bear fruit immediately. Now it takes time to bring something from potential to actual. This is because there is a disconnect between the spiritual source and the physical world. Moshiach will reveal the essence that permeates everything equally and unites the spiritual with the physical. Once everything is thus aligned there will be no delay or resistance between the potential and the actual. The more Torah permeates our being, the more our actions will impact the world.
(Likutei Sichot 37 in Moshiach Day by Day, the Int. Moshiach Campaign)