Thursday, 22 May, 2014 - 3:40 pm

Dear Friends,

This week I am going to tell you about an interesting scientific phenomenon that exists in the Negev, the southern region of the Holy Land.

My friend, Dr. Tamir Klein, a young scientist, works in the Botanical Institute of Basel University. In his doctorate, he reported about a unique phenomenon that has caused quite a stir among other scientists, and has even received angry responses from some older ones, who don’t quite believe his findings.

In the northern Negev, north of Beer Sheva, there is a Jewish National Fund forest – the Yatir Forest. It was planted in the 1960’s by new immigrants from North Africa. The idea was simply to provide them with some kind of employment – in this case, forestation. Forty years have passed; the planters are no longer there, but the trees, Jerusalem pine trees, are still there. And here’s the phenomenon: this is the only place in the world where trees grow in spite of severe desert dryness. They grow almost without any water, and have actually developed a mechanism that enables them to stay alive and even grow in spite of the lack of moisture.

Dr. Tamir Klein, a proud Jew, brings scientists from all over the world to Israel, so that they can see this amazing phenomenon. “Forty years in the desert” he calls it.

The book of Bamidbar (“In the desert”) that we will begin reading this week also tells of an amazing phenomenon. It tells of people who spent forty years in the desert, and created life for themselves. The Torah was given in the desert; the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was built in the desert, and they even got to know G-d in the desert.

Everything has a reason, and one should learn from everything, certainly when it is written in the Torah, because the Torah is a book of teaching and instruction. The Rebbe says that the Torah was given in the desert, so that in all the following generations, up to this very day, a person should know that even in the dry and barren wilderness one can plant and build, and things will continue to grow and develop. When a person reaches a place that is Jewishly a desert, or if he is in an emotional desert – wilderness, or emptiness – he must know and remember that even in the desert one can build a Mishkan for Hashem. The Torah and Mitzvot, life and vitality can be brought even to the desert.

Like the trees, people too have an inner mechanism – the Jewish soul – which will enable them to continue to grow and develop anywhere. And like with the trees, with people too, experts will come and say that it’s impossible: this is a hot, dry, barren area. But Parashat Bamidbar will always be here to say to us that “the Negev, too, will bloom.”

And I say: My friends! Go and engage in forestation!

Shabbat Shalom Umevorach,

Zalmen Wishedski


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