Sunday, February 21, 2010

A forest of hope

I wrote this up before Shabbos, but I wasn't blogging then, so here it is:
The parsha of Truma speaks in detail about the start of the mishkan's construction, and all the materials needed to be donated. A large supply of wood was needed, to build the beams and structure. Where did the Yidden get all this wood from, in the middle of a barren desert?
Rashi answers this by bringing Rabbi Tanchuma's explanation. Yaakov Avinu anticipated with Ruach Hakodesh the Jews' need for wood when building the mishkan. He therefore brought cedar trees with him, planted them in Egypt, and instructed his children to take these trees with them when they would leave the country.
Why couldn't Rashi simply explain that the source for the wood in the desert was from a forest which grew near Mt. Sinai, as other commentaries explain? Or the Jews could have purchased lumber from merchants along the way.
In a sicha in chelek Lamed Aleph, the Rebbe explains why Rashi was forced to explain it specifically in this manner, according to R' Tanchuma.
Now we must understand: Why takkeh did Yaakov do this? Over 200 years before they would need the wood, he made sure to bring trees with him and plant them in Egypt, and then get his children to agree to shlepp them out with them? It was hard enough for the Jews to walk with the matzahs drying on their backs, now they had to carry out huge trees??!! Did Yaakov really think he was doing his descendants a favor? Imagine having to shlep out tons of trees. "Oh, gee, Yaakov. Thanks a lot for your help...." Who is so obsessive and OCD over the planning of the minor details of a trip that wouldn't take place for another 200 years?!

In a simply beautiful pirush, the Rebbe explains exactly what Yaakov intended.

Do you think Yaakov was really that concerned for where they'd get wood to build the mishkan? There were too few mass-polluting humans on the planet to be worried about a tree shortage. What Yaakov was doing was planting for them a Forest of Hope.

Sure the Jews knew that eventually they would be redeemed from the miserable slavery and exile they were in; Hashem had promised their ancestors, hadn't He? But what would keep them going through thick and thin? How and from where would they draw the necessary strength to overcome the smothering darkness surrounding them?
When Yaakov planted these trees, and told his children to take them out with when they would be redeemed, he was associating these trees with the redemption. Especially since these trees were not originally grown in Egypt. Yaakov brought them from the land of Israel. These would be a source of hope and comfort. (Remember the name of the person Rashi quoted for this explanation? R' Tanchuma, which comes from the word meaning comfort!!)
Every time the Jews walked past this huge forest, they saw these trees as symbols of their royal heritage and noble destiny.

The Rebbe goes on to explain that tzadikkim are sometimes described as cedar trees: 'tzaddik ktamar yifrach, kerez balvanon yisgeh...". Yaakov planting these 'cedar trees' represents planting tzaddikim in every generation. Not just tzaddikim, but n'si'im: leaders of the generation, Rabbeim. The word Nasi stands for Nitzutoi Shel Yaakov Avinu.
Yaakov 'planted' these Rabbeim in every generation to carry out the same purpose as his original cedar trees in Egypt. These leaders give hope and comfort to the Jews who are suffering in exile.

The Rebbe finishes by saying that in this bitter, supremely dark and exhaustively long exile, the only true comfort for us is the coming of the Moshiach, may he come speedily in our days, and we will build the Third Beis HaMikdash!

Have a great shabbos!

*When it says that Yaakov planted cedar trees, even though we know that it was acacia wood used in the mishkan, the term 'cedar tree' is actually very general and sometimes can refer to up to ten unique species.