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Flourish Like a Palm

G-d commanded Moshe to gather the tribe of Levi and appoint them for a special role within the Temple. In the desert, they were responsible for taking apart and setting up the portable sanctuary, as well as transporting it during the travels in the desert. They also sang the daily praises to G-d in the Temple accompanied by music. The Levites were given tithes by all Jews and held roles as teachers and spiritual leaders, but did not receive a portion or inheritance in the land. They were chosen to dedicate themselves to G-d and draw down His blessing to the Jewish people.

The setting apart of the tribe of Levi can be understood according to an interpretation of the Baal Shem Tov on the verse “The righteous one flourishes like a date-palm; like a cedar in Lebanon he grows.” There are two types of tzadikim; those compared to date palms and those compared to cedars.

A cedar tree grows very tall and has many wonderful qualities. It is sturdy, tall and graceful, but it does not produce fruit.

A date-palm, on the other hand, does not have the qualities of a cedar, but it has one key advantage: it bears fruit. Dates are especially sweet and succulent fruits, which abound with honey and nutrients, giving energy and health to whoever eats them.

The tzadik who is like a cedar studies Torah and does Mitzvos, but bears no fruit. His study and his mitzvah observance are self-centered. He is righteous because he feels it will benefit him; he does not inspire or reach out to others. He is a tzadik, he is tall and strong in his Divine service, and G-d will reward him for this, to be sure. However, this is not G-d’s ultimate purpose or desire.

Then there is the path of the tzadik who is like a date-palm. He brings forth good fruits. He serves G-d not only for his own sake, but dedicates his time and energy to inspire other Jews to follow in his path. Since he devotes his life to others, he flourishes, and remains vital even in his old age: “They will yet grow in old age; fat and fresh will they be.”

This was the path of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, and of all the rebbes and leaders of Chabad who followed him. This, too, was the path of the tribe of Levi. They did not serve G-d merely for their own sakes. They were content with a life of simplicity, with no property of their own, dedicated solely to serving G-d and His people.

Similarly, the great tzadikim over the course of the generations had the power to bring Moshiach through their own efforts. However, they chose not to take this course since they wanted to include us in the process. They gave us the guidance, direction and support we needed, but left the action up to us. Each and every one of us has a role to play in the ultimate Redemption, and G-d is waiting for every Jew. It will not be the tzadikim who will bring the Geulah, but all of us together.

 

 


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