Tu B’shvat – Growth in the Darkness

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Around 13 years ago, Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner spoke in Neve Yerushalayim as a zechus for a refuah shleimah for Avraham Yeshaya b-n Aviva. She asked why Tu Bshvat, the New Year for fruits, falls in the dark, dreary winter month, when everything outside seems barren and lifeless. Though I do not recall the source she quoted, (perhaps Rav Hirsch) she emphasized how even at the darkest times, we have to remember that specifically then, the blossoms of the yeshua are beginning. And how we on our end, have to wait – knowing, anticipating that it is indeed coming – נַפְשִׁי לַה– מִשֹּׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר, שֹׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר …like the watchmen, waiting for dawn, knowing that for certain, it will arrive.

Rav Yitzchak Kolodetsky, husband of Rebbetzin Leah Kolodetsky שתחי’ה, recently spoke for girls who needed chizuk in the area of shidduchim. He explained how it was exactly because of the darkness, because of the tefillos that emerged from those bleak situations – that the yeshous came. One of the examples he brought was of Leah Imeinu – who because she was destined to marry Eisav, cried and davened, pouring out her heart to the Ribono shel Olam – and because of that, was zoche not only to marry Yaacov, but to also to have 6 of the 12 shevatim – including Malchus, Kehuna and Mashiach – may he come speedily in our days!

He shared the following powerful story:

During the Holocaust, there were 2 men who attempted to escape from the terrible concentration camp they were in. The protocol of that camp was that if anyone was missing at role call – the whole camp was on a lock-down – with everyone searching for the missing people for 24 hours. At the conclusion of that time – a siren would sound, indicating that the search was over. These 2 men, understanding the dangers involved, found a strong wooden box – and built for themselves a 3-layer hide-out – covering themselves as best as they could, until they could escape.

As soon as the Nazis realized they were missing – the search was on, with glaring lights, barking dogs, and endless soldiers furiously combing the area for the renegade prisoners. With the hours ticking by, the 2 men waited anxiously in their hiding spot for the search to end. Suddenly, they heard voices. 2 Nazis were standing outside their “box” discussing the probability that the prisoners would be hiding inside.

The first soldier dismissed the notion – claiming that if indeed there were people inside, their well-trained dogs surely would have sniffed them out. But the second soldier persisted – suggesting that perhaps the Jews has covered themselves with dirt, or many layers to hide their scent. And so, the two soldiers began removing the first layer of wooden planks covering the box…then the second layer….and they were about to uncover the third layer – when the ear-splitting siren rang throughout the camp, effectively ending the search. The Nazis abandoned the box, and returned to their previous duties, leaving the two Jewish men shaking and shivering at their near encounter with death.

As they waited for nightfall to descend so they could make their escape, the men began to wonder why HaKadosh Baruch Hu, had made them suffer those last few minutes of uncertainty, not knowing if the Nazis would discover them or not. It just seemed purposeless – if Hashem was going to save them anyway- why did they need those few minutes of sheer terror? By now, the sky was dark, the soldiers had retreated to their night-time activities, and our 2 Jews began attempting to move the planks off the top of the box, so they could escape. But they were extremely weak – both from their prior exhaustion and condition, as well as these past 24 hours, during which they had not a morsel of food. With super-human effort, they managed to garnish every last bit of energy, and move the 2 planks covering the 3rd level of the box.

It was then that they understood, that not only was the terror they just experienced not purposeless, it was precisely orchestrated to save their lives – for had the first two layers not been removed, they would not have managed to remove the planks, and likely not survived.

So too, Rav Kolodetsky explained, many times, the darkness itself is the light – not just that it’s hiding in the darkness, not just that it heralds the light – rather what we perceive as darkness is the very light we’ve been waiting for.

So this Tu BShvat, let us be zoche to see the light in the darkness, a year of yeshuos, brachos, simchos, shefa and kol misha’alos libeinu answered l’tova, and may we finally be zoche to greet the geula shleimah, b’mheirah u’byameinu – Amein!

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