Chaim Ingram


“On Shavuot, the world is judged for the fruits of trees.”  (Mishna Rosh haShana 1:2)

 “For a tree of the field is man!” (Deut. 20:19, homiletic interpretation)

 The Yamim Noraim – Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur – is the primary season of the Jewish calendar for individual cheshbon ha-nefesh,, stocktaking.  As regards a community, Rambam declares “whenever they repent and cry out wholeheartedly they are answered immediately (Yad, Hilchot Teshuva 2:2).

 However, it could be said that Shavuot, when our nation stood at Sinai k’ish ekhad b’leiv ekhad, “as one man with one heart” (Rashi: Ex. 19:2), is a prime time for us to soul-search as a community.  To make an inventory (or inven-tree) of our communal successes and failings..

There is perhaps more to the Mishna’s statement that Shavuot (in the late spring when fruits in Israel begin to ripen) is judgement time for trees than meets the eye.

Trees usually are planted not in isolation but in orchards, groves and forests. In other words, in a collective!

Walking to shul last Shabbat, I glimpsed a clump of trees whose branches were gently swaying in the wind. I have passed this group of trees hundreds of times before, but, with these thoughts in mind, it struck me then that they were actually swaying (davening?) in absolute synchrony – in other words, in perfect harmony!

If Shavuot is judgement time for trees and if human beings are compared to trees, then perhaps Shavuot is an optimum time for us to renew ourselves as a Jewish community – k’ish ekhad b’leiv ekhad.

That there are divisions among Jews is nothing new. But it is heartbreaking that fissures exist even in the Torah-observant community. Even among mitsva-keeping Jews with broadly the same ideological outlook.  Chaval!

 R’ Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821), leading disciple of the Vilna Gaon, used to say that when Jews don’t make Kiddush, our enemies make havdala. In other words, when we stop sanctifying G-D’s name, anti-Semitism re-emerges from its hidey-hole and we start feeling we are being singled out for hate.. So how do we arrest anti-Semitism? By being a goy kodosh, namely a united Torah nation. That is the greatest kiddush haShem we can possibly make.

If trees can sway in synchrony, so can we!  After all we are compared to trees. And we did it once before, 3,336 years ago!

Wishing all my readers a chag sameakh b’achdut!

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of five books on Judaism. He is a senior tutor for the Sydney Beth Din and the non-resident rabbi of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. He can be reached at