Rav Kook z"tl on tu BiShvat

Tu Bishvat: Emulating the Divine

When the settlement of Magdiel celebrated its establishment, Rav Kook participated in the festivities. The ceremony include the planting of trees, and Rav Kook was given the honor of placing the first sapling in the ground. The organizers handed the rabbi a hoe with which to dig the hole, but he threw it aside and began digging with his bare hands.

Rabbi Zeev Gold, who was also in attendance, noticed that Rav Kook suddenly became all impassioned. His entire body seemed to quiver and shake, and his face looked like a burning flame, as he placed the sapling in the ground with awe and trepidation.

Rabbi Gold was quite baffled by Rav Kook's behavior, and he asked him: 'What is all the excitement about? Thank God, people plant hundreds of trees every day in Eretz Yisrael!'

The Rav replied: 'When I held that tender sapling in my hand, I remembered the Midrash's interpretation of the verse, "You shall follow the Lord your God.. and cling to Him" [Deut. 13:5].

"Is it possible for flesh and blood to ascend to the heavens and cling to the Shechinah, about Whom it is written, 'For the Lord your God is a consuming fire' [Deut. 4:24]? .. Rather, [the explanation is as follows:] At the beginning of creation, the Holy One Blessed be He engaged in planting, as it says, 'The Lord God planted a garden in Eden' [Gen. 2:8]. Similarly, when you enter in the Land, engage in planting first, as it is written, 'When you shall come into the Land, and you shall plant all types of fruit trees' [Lev. 19:23]." [Vayikra Rabbah 25:3]

'When I was about to put the sapling in the ground,' Rav Kook explained, 'I remembered these words and felt as if I was clinging to the Shechinah. Thus, I was overcome by fear and trembling.'

[from "An Angel Among Men", by R. Simcha Raz, translated by R. Moshe Lichtman, pp. 273-274]

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