(Torah Portion Chayai Sarah) Scenic Splendor
Picturesque Northeastern Pennsylvania gets an added boost of life and personality with the coming of the fall season. The magnificent and beautiful array of colors that the leaves of the trees exude is literally breathtaking.
I’m not going to go into the technical causes that generate the brilliant foliage, I just want to share the feeling and impression that goes through my mind when I observe the leaves turning colors.
When spring comes the leaves on the trees emerge, staying around throughout the summer. Although there are many varieties of trees sprouting forth diverse shaped leaves, for the most part, to the eye of the ordinary observer, their similarly colored green leaves makes them all blend together. However when fall comes, each tree’s individual personality comes forth exuding a particular color. At times a single tree has a variety of different colored leaves.
Here are my thoughts:
The Torah compares man to a fruit-bearing tree of the field.
Shem Mishmuel explains that trees and vegetation emerge from the simple bland earth. Embedded within the earth are nutrients and essentials that nurture the seeds and existing plants, generating magnificent and tasty produce. Similarly, G-d created each person with vast potential – to produce, grow, develop and excel, if he is nurtured correctly.
Just as a tree will produce good fruit if it is nurtured properly, so too, each person has the responsibility to nurture himself healthily in his physical, mental and spiritual realms in order to maximize his potential.
The different colors of the leaves during fall may allude to the unique potential of each individual person.
Life can be compared to the stages a tree goes through during the seasons of the year. Just as trees bud and produce green leaves, so to, man is born and develops. Later these similar leaves change into bright, unique and different colors. So too, eventually man’s own individuality and expression emerges.
Eventually the leaves fall off the tree, but the tree reenergizes and recharges itself during the winter months and then rejuvenates itself with continued growth. In the same way, the nature of man is that he experiences highs and lows in life. Taking the example of trees teaches us to always be mindful of our unique potential – we have the ability to reorganize, improve, excel and shine.
Trees have always been the symbol of life. For example, after Adam and Chavah ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, mortality was introduced to the world, and Adam and Chavah were banished from the Garden of Eden, lest they eat from the fruit of the Tree of Eternal Life which was also in the Garden.
Twenty-six generations after Adam, at Mount Sinai, we were introduced to and given an Aitz Chaim – a Tree of Life – our Torah from G-d. This Tree of Life, our Torah, is a guide and instruction manual how we must function and conduct ourselves meaningfully and correctly during our stay in this world so that we merit eternal life in the World to Come.
The Torah tells us that trees were also used for idol worship, and that the Ashairah tree, which was worshiped, must be destroyed.
In last week’s Parsha, the Torah relates how Avraham, despite his painful recovery from his circumcision at the age of 99, ran to entertain approaching guests. The Torah relates that he had them rest under the tree. Targum Yonason Ben Uziel explains that Avraham’s tree discerned the level of belief in G-d of whoever sat under it and reacted accordingly. If the person was G-d fearing, the tree would provide plenty of shade. However, if the person was an idolater, its leaves and branches would fold up like a closed umbrella.
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah tells us that Avraham acquired the Meoras Hamachpaila – Cave of Machpaila as a burial spot for our Matriarch Sarah. The Torah tells us the amount he paid and that he purchased it along with a field and trees.
Our Sages point out from this, that when purchasing a property, the location and identity of the trees serve as a proof and verification of the site.
Getting back to the stunning foliage – King David in the Book of Psalms helps us express ourselves upon visualizing the beauty and exquisiteness of nature with the words; “Mah Gadlu Ma’secha Hashem – How awesomely wondrous and great is Your Creativity – Hashem – Almighty!”
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks