April 18, 2024
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The Darkest Hour Is the One Before Dawn

The mishna in Sanhedrin (90a) states that one who suggests that there is no reference to the resurrection of the dead (“techiyas hameisim”) in the Torah has no share in the world to come. The Gemara goes on to quote various Torah sources that serve as sources for the concept of “techiyas hameisim.” In this week’s parsha of “Beshalach,” we read the song that Moshe composed after the Jewish nation safely crossed the Sea of Reeds and the Egyptians were defeated. “Oz yashir Moshe,” was written in the future tense, “Then will Moshe sing,” (15:1). Rashi tells us that the Sages derive an allusion from this verse that Hashem will bring the dead back to life in Messianic times. They will, then, sing God’s praises once again.

The Rambam (Maimonides) considered this concept of the resurrection of the dead to be one of the 13 core principles of Judaism. When we repeat the “Shemoneh Esrei” prayer three times a day, we say, “and you are believed to bring back the dead to life. Blessed be You, Hashem, who brings back the dead to life.” Apparently, we are meant to contemplate this subject and give it some serious thought.

In Ezekiel (chapter 32), we read the famous story of the valley of the dry bones that were brought back to life. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (92a) debates whether this was a true story or, simply, a parable with a lesson to be learned. Rabbi Yehuda said that this was a true story, and we are also to learn a lesson from it. Rabbi Yehuda ben Besera “jumped up on his feet and said, ‘I am one of their descendants and here are the tefillin that my grandfather left me as an heirloom from them.’”

This Shabbos is not only Shabbos Shira, the Shabbos when we read: “Oz yashir Moshe,” but it also portends “Tu B’Shevat,” which will be celebrated next week. Tu B’Shevat is the Jewish New Year for the trees and vegetation.

The exact date set in the Jewish calendar for Tu B’Shevat was a matter of dispute between the schools of Shammai and Hillel. While the school of Shammai picked the first of the month of Shevat, the school of Hillel argued that the 15th of the month was more appropriate. They chose that time, because it corresponded to the midpoint of winter—the exact turning point in the Jewish calendar. As of Tu B’Shevat, the days were already getting longer… The dead of winter was now behind us. We were now getting closer to springtime, when the flowers would bloom and the vegetation would come to life. In short, the school of Hillel was optimistically looking forward to the future when the weather would perk up, color would return and life would, literally, be more rosy. We knew from experience that the trees and flowers that looked so dead and gone were going to revive and come back to life again.

There may be times in our lives when we experience seasons of winter, as well. Things may look bleak. We may have setbacks and losses. We may feel that there is little reason to have hope. Still, we too, need to look forward with this optimistic view. The English theologian, Thomas Fuller, is credited with the proverb, “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” It may be cold and snowy on the outside, but in our hearts and minds, we should consider that we have turned the corner. The dark days of winter will now be behind us. Spring is coming… If Hashem can bring the dead back to life, then He can surely alleviate our other problems that cause us to be upset and feel temporary despair.

May we be inspired by Shabbos Shira and Tu B’Shevat. May we look forward to a turn around and revival—not only for the trees and flowers, but for ourselves and our spirits, as well!


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is past president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

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