Picture this: You are out in your garden planting a tree when a big ruckus begins at the end of the block. Your neighbor comes running up, out of breath, “The Messiah is here and he is coming down the street,” he says. You begin to wipe the dirt off your hands so you can greet the Messiah, but another neighbor, an especially devout man of sage-like demeanor, shakes his head. “Finish what you were doing,” he says, “and then go greet the Messiah.”
Prioritizing gardening over greeting the Messiah? What could this man possibly be thinking?
Prioritizing gardening over the Messiah may seem bizarre, but that is precisely what the Jewish sages have instructed. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai taught: “If you have a sapling in your hand, and someone says to you that the Messiah has come, stay and finish the planting, and then go to greet the Messiah.” (Avot d’Rabbi Natan 31b)
This is not, God forbid, intended to denigrate or demean the importance of the Messiah; quite the contrary! The Covenant between God and the people of Israel is manifested in the Land of Israel. While planting trees may not seem like a holy act, doing so in the Land of Israel binds the people and Land of Israel to the God of Israel! Settling the land and planting trees is not a distraction from the arrival of the Messiah; it is a sign that the Messiah is on its way! The return of the Jews to the Land and the subsequent blooming of the deserts is part of the Messianic process.
This teaching of the Rabbis also emphasizes that the Messiah is not an otherworldly “sci-fi scenario” in which the world will be is transformed overnight in some strange or supernatural way. The coming of the Messiah is a natural and slow process that will culminate in mankind’s fulfillment of God’s will. If humanity fulfills God’s will, the Messiah’s arrival will be inevitable.
This is beautifully illustrated in planting a tree. In an act of faith, the farmer takes a seemingly dead seed and, with great faith in the resurrection, buries it in the soil. Incredibly, the farmer’s faith is rewarded with a miracle! Slowly and gradually, a small tree sprouts. What began as a small sprout grows ever taller, stretching toward the heavens. The farmer’s initial act of faith is rewarded, providing shade and sustenance to his children and grandchildren. Similarly, our faith in the coming of the Messiah and our fulfillment of God’s word will yield fruits.
Baruch Kogan is someone who embodies this faith. A remarkable man, Baruch is working hard to heal the land of Israel and, by extension, the people of Israel. One tree at a time and one Jew at a time. By planting trees, Kogan is not only reconnecting the people to the land, he is bringing us one step closer towards the Messiah.
Israel365 is pleased to join in Kogan’s vision of healing the land. To read more about Baruch and others like him, visit the Guardians of Israel website.