Parshat Vaeira: Jewish Botany

The amazing thing about a seed is first it has to decay (at least partially) before life begins.

Dr . Joseph Frager,

DR . Joseph Frager
DR . Joseph Frager
Courtesy of Dr. Frager

"Hashem said to Moshe, "See, I have made you a master over Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your spokesman.

You shall speak everything that I shall command you, and Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he should send the Children of Israel from his land."(7:1-2) With these words the redemption from Egypt begins.

As stated previously, the prototype for the Ultimate Redemtion (I'YH it will come speedily in our day) is the redemption from Egypt. The Haftorah taken from Yechezkel (28:25-29:21) carries through on this theme and ends with the verse: "On that day I will cause the strength of the House of Israel to flower ("Atzmiach") and to you I will grant a vindication in their midst; and they shall know that I am Hashem".

Rabbi Shimon Schwab Of Blessed Memory says that one of the names of Moshiach is "Tzemach" (derived from the same root as to "flower"). Hence throughout our prayers we speak of "Tzemach Dovid"-the offspring of your servant David which refers to Moshiach. The Avnei Azel puts forward a beautiful idea that is quoted by many that compares the growth of a plant to Klal Yisrael. How does a plant become a plant? First there is a seed.

The amazing thing about a seed is first it has to decay (at least partially) before life begins. First the surface has to be broken by "rotting" in the earth before a shoot comes out and life is triggered. Just as life begins in this fashion for a plant, the Geula comes about in the same way. When all hope is lost, the Geula comes. Essentially, the nation is 'dead" in the ground. Only then does the bud shoot forth. From decay comes life. The last verse in the Haftorah of Vaeira highlights this.

"On that day I will cause the strength of the House of Israel to flower (Yechezkel 29:21) The Holocaust is a modern example of this phenomenon. From the ashes, when all hope was lost, the State of Israel was born. Enslaved in Egypt, the Jewish Nation was "dead". The redemption from Egypt brought us back from the brink. In Shemoneh Esrei we use the expression of "Tzemach" several times. The first time is in the Blessing of Techiyat HaMeitim-The Resurrection of the dead.

"Who is like you, O Master of mighty deeds, and who is comparable to You, O King Who causes death and restores life and makes salvation sprout (UMatzmiach"). The word "Tzemach" occurs again in the Blessing of the Davidic Dynasty. I mentioned already the meaning of Tzemach Dovid"-the offspring of your servant David. In the same Blessing Tzemach is again used, "Meheira Tazmiach" "May You speedily cause to flourish". The Blessing ends "Mazmiach Keren Yeshua"-"Who causes the pride of salvation to flourish".

Rabbi Shimon Schwab of Blessed Memory says that just as a plant starts growing it is unrecognizable, only when it is bigger is it recognized. The Jewish People and Moshiach's rise will also be unrecognizable. Then they will be recognized.

The Jewish People have had many points in our History when we were down and out from persecutions and attempts at annihilation.; the Egyptian Slavery, the Babylonian Exile, the Roman Exile, the Crusades, The Inquisition and the Holocaust. Unlike other nations who never recovered, the Jewish People bounce back like a seed that never dies. Other nations could not go through this process and survive.

This concept is further extrapolated by the Avnei Azel to "Techiayat HaMeitim"-Resurrection of the Dead. I mentioned earlier that the word "Atzmiach" is used in the Blessing of Techiyat HaMeitim (""Who causes death and restores life and makes salvation sprout").

Instead of an actual seed, Chazal say the resurrection of the dead will occur via the "Luz" bone which is located in the spine.Obviously, the "Luz" bone maintains all of a person's DNA so that in this day in age of advanced Genetics the idea of resurrection is not some far fetched concept. Jewish Law forbids cremation because it destroys the Luz bone and hence the chance for resurrection. There is nothing more backward than cremation.

Human Beings have been given a chance for eternal life and instead they forsake it. It is incomprehensible. After airplane crashes, and suicide bombings ZAKA workers are seen trying to recover every bit of remains possible so that resurrection for that individual is possible. This is G-d's promise. Just as G-d miraculously took the Jewish people out of Egypt, He is capable of Jewish revival and ultimately resurrection. Shabbat Shalom