Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Belzer Rebbe’s Garden

Rav Aharon of Belz, zt”l, had decided to settle in Tel Aviv. It was always his practice to spend a great deal of time immersed in his spiritual preparation for davening. In general, that involved learning a large amount in an enthusiastic voice, and he generally stood the entire time. One of his daily sedarim was to learn Maseches Berochos from cover to cover! He never wasted time on mundane matters since he was always busy either learning, davening, or helping people by offering his blessing or advice. For this reason, it came as a big surprise to his followers when shortly after settling in, the Rebbe asked his assistants to arrange for the planting of a garden near his home for his private use. He specified that the garden should contain trees, vegetables, and flowers. This seemed very uncharacteristic of a tzaddik who was so particular about not wasting a single moment or glance. Those assistance well remembered the Rebbe’s response to a doctor who asked that he gaze at the sky to enable him to examine the Rebbe’s eyes. “My whole life I have never looked out of my dalet amos, and I don’t plan on changing for the worse at this late date! I am afraid that you will have to forgo this.”
So what could such a kadosh want with a garden?
But since the Rebbe had made his request, the gabbaim made sure that a splendorous garden was planted, replete with fruit trees and flowers as ordered.
After several years, the garden grew lushly with every possible source of delight. The Rebbe announced, “This year is shemittah. It is time to publicly declare its fruits hefker.” He took the time to carefully explain to the workers who tended the garden that since this year is shemittah, it is forbidden for them to work there.
The Rebbe’s actions had the effect that he had hoped for when he first came to Tel Aviv: a wonderful kiddush Hashem was made, and many who had never meant to do so were encouraged to observe the halachos of shemittah!

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