"You shall make the planks of the Mishkan of cedar wood, standing upright." Exodus 26:15


As an American, I grew up with the legend of Johnny Appleseed. More myth than man, he was accredited during the early 1800s with the dissemination of apple seeds across the expanse of Middle America, contributing to both a boon in fruit as well as promise for the emerging country. Our week's Torah portion takes this idea of planting for the future to a whole new level.

The Midrash Tanchuma recounts that our patriarch Jacob engaged in his own tree-planting mission. On the way down to Egypt, we are taught, Jacob planted a grove of cedar trees. Years later when dying, he revealed to his sons the purpose of those trees. He said to them that in the near future challenges and trials will befall them and slavery ensue. One day however, redemption will occur and, when the time for exodus comes, those cedar trees should be used as the beams for the Mishkan, the spiritual Tabernacle that would accompany our people in the wilderness on the journey to Israel.

Jacob was perfectly aware that God could easily supply any necessary building materials when the redemption came. Yet, using great foresight, he took the time to plant the cedar trees. He knew that our people during their darkest days would need a symbol of hope, a beacon to grasp. Our patriarch anticipated that when things became too overwhelming and our people would want to give up, their eyes would look upon the horizon and see in the distance those towering trees. This vision would remind them to be strong and that in time freedom would come.

The Talmud (Yoma 72a) teaches us that this is the homiletic meaning of the term "standing upright". It was because of those trees that our people were able to continue to stand upright during their subjugation in Egypt.

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