The Olive Tree

A sense of exhilaration that I couldn't grasp.

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Moshe Kempinski,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR
A Prime Minister that has proven to be one of the most corrupt and self-serving government officials in Israel's short history continues to stay in power due to the weak self-interest of his coalition partners. A political leadership that is small-minded and
What was the mystery of this olive tree that seemed to impact me in such a deep way?
enslaved to cliches and simplistic solutions continues to avoid life-saving decisions. A Foreign Minister who travels the world, from photo opportunity to photo opportunity, has done nothing to enhance Israel's image in the world. A new Defense Minister has taken over from the previous failed minister, in spite of the fact that he himself was thrown out of power previously as a failed Prime Minister.

Yet, every morning as I trudge up the little hill from my synagogue to the entrance into my building, I always feel a sense of exhilaration that I could not understand. Just before I enter the building, I walk under a wide, expansive olive tree. As I stop under it and look to the west, I have an uninterrupted view of the Jerusalem forest hills for as far as my eyes can see. I usually take a deep breath and somehow feel filled and whole, even for only a minute. At first, this began to happen without my being overtly conscious of it, but after repeatedly sensing that feeling, I began to ponder its meaning.

What, then, was the mystery of this olive tree that seemed to impact me in such a deep way? I thought of the midrash brought down in Tractate Menachot 51b: "Rabbi Yehoshuah Ben Levi said: Why is Israel compared to an olive tree? Because just as the leaves of an olive tree do not fall off either in summer or winter. So, too, the Jewish people shall not be cast off, neither in this world nor in the World to Come."

In the midst of the threats from Iran and the rumblings from Syria and the pressure from the West, that midrashic thought brings comfort. In fact, you sense the truth in this thought as you wander the cities of this country and walk its streets, and feel a sense of a new beginning and of some new spirit of re-gathering.
 
Throughout Jerusalem and at street corners across the country, young people are manning booths selling the orange ribbons and bracelets again that were so prevalent during the expulsion from Gush Katif two years ago. Their immediate goal is to resettle the northern Shomron community of Homesh. Since Hannukah of 2006, thousands have gone up again and again to the desolate hilltop overlooking the hinterland of Israel. Though they have always agreed to leave peacefully, their stubborn determination to return again and again will inevitably lead to the settlement's rebuilding. They refuse to be cast off.

The olive tree also appears in the Midrash Shmot Rabbah (Tetzaveh 36) discussing the verse in the book of Jeremiah (11:16) comparing the Jewish people to an olive tree: "God called your name a green olive tree, fair (zayit ra'anan) with goodly fruit." The midrash expounds insights gleaned from this verse. Just as the olive oil does not get mixed together with other fluids, so too
A new beginning and some new spirit of re-gathering.
the Jewish people will never disappear fully into the cauldron of assimilation. In fact, in a miraculous fashion, despite being agitated, persecuted and oppressed, the Jewish people, like the oil, always rise to the top. They rise above those nations oppressing them and retain their distinct and unique character.

This, too, was a comforting thought after this period of parades in Jerusalem flaunting politically correct debauchery. Furthermore, great segments of the Jewish people are looking to escape their unique destiny and find refuge in the seeming safety of universalism. After thousands of years of persecution and exile, some believe that their salvation lies with melding into the great melting pot and becoming indistinct and vague. Yet, the olive oil inevitably finds its way to the top. Throughout Israel, in events organized by Bayit Yehudi, MiBreishit, Ma'ayanot HaYeshuah, and others, there is a palpable and strengthening wave of interest in Jewish connectedness and involvement. Thousands of young people from all the points in exile are meeting in Israel as part of the Birthright-Taglit program, and they are leaving changed and impacted.

The olive oil, pure and fragrant, is rising to the top.

Finally, our sages offer other insights into this verse in Jeremiah in Tractate Menachot 53b: "Just as the purpose of the olive is the oil which is extracted from it, says Rabbi Yitzchak, so too is the purpose of the exile and all its events realized only after it reaches the end of its processing." The Maharsha explains that only after the olive has been

The groundwork is being laid for the next chapter of Jewish history.
crushed and pressed to extract its essence can the fruit's potential truly be revealed.
 
At a time when the guns of our enemies are directed towards this small, embattled country, and at a time when the politically correct liberals of the world begin to discuss Israel as an historic mistake, the amount of Jews coming to Israel to live has mysteriously multiplied. North American Aliyah (immigration to Israel) will reach a 25-year record high this year, with immigrants arriving on twelve flights this summer. The Jewish people are discovering their destiny and their potential, and the groundwork is being laid for the next chapter of Jewish history.

The mysteries ensconced within a simple olive tree in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem....