Weekly Letter: Essential and Physical Qualities of Roots

As we now celebrate the 15th of Sh’vat, New Year for trees and will soon will be celebrating Chof Bais Sh’vat – remembering and honoring Rebbetzen Chaya Mushka and by extension, all Jewish women – we are presenting a letter of the Rebbe appropriate for these occasions. In his letter addressing a convention of Lubavitch women and girls, whose theme is ROOTS, the Rebbe connects the idea of roots not only with our Patriarchs and Matriarchs as is commonly done, but also with the Jewish woman. In his instructive and fascinating analogy, the Rebbe describes the many essential, physical qualities of roots and the similar ones found in the woman. This letter is from volume 5 of The Letter and The Spirit.

By the Grace of G—d
15 of Teves, 5739
Brooklyn, N.Y
To All Participants in the 2nd European Convention
of Lubavitch Women’s and Girls Groups

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming 2nd European Convention, beginning on Rosh Chodesh Shvat, on the keynote theme: “Roots.” May G-d grant that it should be with utmost hatzlocho in every respect.
The theme of the convention is meaningful in many ways, reflecting the vital functions of roots in the world of plants – by way of instructive analogy for our Jewish roots, which – as our Sages declare are our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the founders of our people. To mention some of the most basic function of roots:

The roots are, of course, the source of vitality of the plant, from the moment of its birth when the seed takes root and thereafter, bringing it to fruition and constantly nourishing it throughout its life with the vital elements of water and minerals, etc. from the soil.

While the roots must work also for their own existence, growth, development and strength, their main function is to nourish the plant and ensure its full development, as well as its regenerative powers through the production of fruits and the fruits of the fruits. At the same time the roots provide a firm base and anchorage for the plant so as not to be swept away by strong winds and other elements.
It is in the sense of these basic functions of physical roots that we understand our spiritual roots.

The “primary roots” of our Jewish people are, as mentioned above, our Patriarchs Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov, as our Sages declare: “”Only three are called Ovos/Fathers.” On the maternal side, our primary roots are our Mothers, Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah. Each of these founders and builders of the House of Israel contributed a distinctive quality which, blended together, produced the unique character of our Jewish people.

Most typical – and original (in the sense of parentage) – is Avrohom Ovinu, of whom it is written “One was Avrohom,” for he was one and only in his generation who recognized the oneness of G-d and with complete self-sacrifice proclaimed the Unity of G—d (pure monotheism) to a world steeped in polytheism and idolatry. His progeny, the Jewish people, is still unique in carrying on his work – a small minority in a world which has many gods. Form whom we inherited and derive strength form, the quality of Mesiras nefesh, as well as the supreme obligation to pass our heritage to our children; for it was his greatest merit in his devotion and total dedication to G-d that “he bequeathed to his children and household after him to keep the way of G-d.”

By referring to our Ovos as “roots,” our Sages indicate a further essential aspect of roots that goes beyond the role of parents. To be sure, parents give birth to children and transmit to them some of their own physical, mental and spiritual qualities. But children are not directly dependent on their parents for survival; they can move away from their parents and from their parental home and continue to thrive also after their parents are gone. But this is not so in the case of a plant and its roots. The roots are absolutely indispensable to the plant’s existence and their vitalizing influence must flow continuously to keep the plant alive and thriving. In the same way our Fathers and Mothers must always vitalize and animate our own lives.

Every Jew and Jewess should realize that he or she is an integral part of the great “root system” that began with our Patriarchs and continues to thrive through the ages, nourishing and sustaining our people, whom G-d calls “a branch of My planting, the work of My hands, to take pride in them.”

Yet, sad to say, there are many Jews who for one reason or another are not aware of their roots and some whose roots have become so atrophied as to be in danger of becoming completely withered, G-d forbid. It is therefore up to the healthy roots to work all the harder to revive and strengthen the others and help them rediscover their identity and place within the root system of our unique people.

In this life-saving work, the role of the Jewish woman is of crucial importance, since she is the Akeres Habayis, the foundation (literally “root”) of the home, who largely determines the character and atmosphere of the household and the future of the children in particular, as has often been emphasized. In the same vein, there can be no greater fulfillment for a Jewish girl than to prepare herself for her vital role of building the House of Israel, as a worthy descendant of our Matriarchs. As indicated above, it is a dual process: actively pursuing one’s own growth and development and at the same time working for the preservation and growth of our people, through spreading and strengthening Yiddishkeit in the Jewish community at large, particularly in areas where Jewish mothers and daughters can contribute most, such as Kashrus, Taharas Hamishpocho, candle lighting, etc.
Finally to pursue the analogy from the roots to one more significant point – one does not look for flashing color and external beauty in roots, nor are the latter concerned with what some foolish people might say about their external looks; roots do their work humbly and modestly, indeed for the most part hidden from view altogether. Such is also the work of the true Jewish mothers and daughters.

In a world where fashion and vogue hold sway and where expediency often takes precedence over eternal values and principles, our worthy mother and daughters are not concerned with what some neighbor or pare-by might say about the way they conduct themselves and their homes in accord with the laws of our sacred Torah and mitzvos. If these appear “old fashioned” to the onlooker with his “modern” ideas of “new morality” and the like – we, Jews, take pride in our old-fashioned, yet always new and eternal roots and we strive to become ever more root-like and truer to the primary roots of our Jewish people, whom G-d designated as a “kingdom of G-ds servants and a Holy Nation.”

With prayerful wishes to each and all of you to go from strength to strength in all above, and

With blessing,

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