children and nature
children and natureBen Bresky

“The road is long

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

But I’m strong

Strong enough to carry him

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

So on we go

His welfare is of my concern

No burden is he to bear

We’ll get there…” (The Hollies)

Friday night. From my window I hear a group of children burst into song in the street below. “Am Yisrael Chai” they are singing. In the lovely setting sun of a wintry Friday evening. The darkening cloud-filled skies portend a chilling rain, whistling winds. But instead, a warm evening glow pervades the streets, adding to the cheer and warmth of the singing.

“But now, I will heal and mend them. I will make them whole and bless them with abundance of peace and security.” (Jeremiah 33:6)

We are blessed to be living in this time of miracles. In our too-recent memory are the tragedies of our father’s generation during the Holocaust, when the creation of the State of Israel was but a dream. We are blessed to be in this time of the ingathering of the exiled. Living witnesses to a miracle, as we see in front our our eyes the prophecy, the centuries-old dream, being fulfilled. Perhaps the beginning of the Messianic era. Who knows?

We are blessed today to be in the Land of Israel. Where children can sing “Am Yisrael Chai” on the streets, carefree and exuberantly, on a pleasant wintry Friday evening.

And where is ‘Am Israel’ now, I think to myself?

Scattered. As we have been for centuries. Our physical dispersion apparently manifesting a higher spiritual decree.

The exile of the Jewish people is on two levels. There is the physical exile, in which we are dwelling outside our homeland, yearning to return.

There is another element to exile, which is spiritual. We cannot fathom the mysteries of our destiny and fate.

There is apparently a reciprocal role for Jews living within and outside the Promised Land. Perhaps in line with our role to be a “Light unto the Nations”.

According to some, exile has enabled the Jewish people to reach spiritual heights as a prelude to Redemption, as our bondage in Egypt was a prelude to Revelation.

For centuries, we have been away from our homeland, maintaining our inherent and unified identity, praying for our return to the Promised Land.

Throughout our history, we have not forgotten the dream of redemption. The prophecy of Isaiah:

“How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.”


Some dreams are meant to be realized today, others postponed for tomorrow. And they become sweeter, filled with longing, for the element of dreaminess which is enhanced with time.

One day, the dream will become reality. One day, the Messiah will arrive, and our Nation will be gathered from the four corners of the earth and brought back to the Promised Land.

And until that day. Until that day.

We are now in the month of Shvat. The month which began with the Torah portion Va’era. We are reminded of the Covenant. “… I am the LORD and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians….I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am the LORD.” (Exodus 6:2-8).

We have been engaged for two years in a struggle for healthy physical survival, as individuals and as a nation.

And it is now, in this month, that we are so clearly reminded of our heritage. Of the Divine promise to Our People. Why are we Here? What is our role? Do we hold firmly within ourselves that which was always a core principle of our existence, that we as the Nation of Israel are One.

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity - even under the most difficult circumstances - to add a deeper meaning to his life..….. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him…..” (Victor Frankl)

As a nation, we face the same challenges as each of us individually.

We, who are created in the image of the Divine. What is our role?

How are we dealing with the challenges of Life? How are we relating to one another? Through our prayers, our actions, we may influence the arrival of an era of peace and kindness. An era of unity and wholeness.

Soon it will be Tu B’Shvat. The “New Year for Trees”. Reminiscent of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. The source of all Life. In this holiday in which we plant trees, we become partners with God in taking care of nature, and enhance the song of Life that can be heard in the blooming fields and forests.

Tu B’Sh’vat. The holiday of blossoming. We celebrate the presence of the trees, the flowers, the fruits of Nature which provides the goodness of the Land of Israel as a blessing. We celebrate the miracle of the Holy Land, which brings forth today the Biblical produce of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

On this holiday, the Divine nature of the land heightens within us an appreciation of its beauty and generosity. We are filled with a sense of wonder at the mystery of creation and bounty.

The fruitfulness of the land has both a physical and a mystical significance. This is reflected in the Tu B’Shvat seder, which originated with the mystics of Safed, in which reciting the appropriate blessings and eating the appropriate fruits in a certain order will bring the world closer to spiritual perfection. Perhaps usher in the coming of Redemption.

”The field and all that is therein will jubilate; then all the forest trees will sing praises.“ (Psalm 96:12)

In this month especially, we are reminded of the inseparable bond that exists between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.

And we remember the inseparable bond that exists between the Nation of Israel in all countries of the world.

We as a people are One. One in our fate, in our heritage, in our destiny.

“There is hope for thy future, saith the LORD: and thy children shall return to their own border.” (Jeremiah 31:16)

A touch of heaven can be felt on earth. A touch of the World to Come is in the World As Is. A touch of the Messianic age is now, and its arrival is imminent.

Am Yisrael Chai.