GOOD MORNING! Can you imagine celebrating a New Year for trees? Jews do -- and have for thousands of years. Wednesday, February 8th is Tu B'Shevat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat) and the New Year for trees!
The 15th of Shevat is the New Year for trees and in the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, it was used for calculating tithes from the fruit of trees. This is the date the Talmud tells us that trees stop absorbing water from the ground and instead draw nourishment from their sap.
How do we celebrate Tu B'Shevat? We eat fruit -- especially the fruits for which the Land of Israel is renowned. The Torah praises the Land of Israel with reference to the fruits of the trees and the produce of the soil: "A land of wheat and barley and vines (grapes) and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and (date) honey... and you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deut. 8:8-10). The Jewish people rejoice in the fruits, in the Land and in the Almighty Who has given us life.
In recent years, people celebrate Tu B'Shevat by planting trees in Israel. If you can't get to Israel, you can always purchase trees to be planted in Israel from the Jewish National Fund (Jnf.org or call 800-542-TREE). There are 5 million trees that need to be replaced after the Carmel Forest fire last year. Just as others have planted for us, we plant for those who will come after us.
The Kabbalists in Safad created a Tu B'Shevat Seder (similar to the Passover Seder) to delve into the inner meaning of the day. There are explanations and meditations on the inner dimensions of fruits, along with blessings, songs and deep discussion. You can find it at t .
In our home we put out a whole fruit display -- especially those mentioned above for which the land of Israel is praised. It is a time of appreciation for what the Almighty has given us and which we might take for granted. Let your attitude be gratitude!
Man is compared to a tree (Deut. 20:19). In Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers found in the back of most Siddurim, Jewish prayer books, it is written: "A person whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are numerous, but whose roots are few. The wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down. But a person whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place" (Avot 3:22).
Like a tree, our roots our the source of nourishment for our life. A Jew's nourishment is the Torah -- the knowledge and the means for us to make a spiritual connection to the Almighty. The Maharal teaches that just like the tree grows branches, flowers and fruits to fulfill its purpose, a man must work to produce moral, intellectual and spiritual accomplishments to fulfill his purpose. These are the fruits of our existence!
Just as a tree needs soil, water, air and sunlight, so does a person need to be spiritually rooted and connected with a source of nourishment. Water to a tree, Torah wisdom for us -- as Moses proclaims: "May my teaching drop like the rain" (Deut. 32:2). Air for the tree, spirituality for us -- as the Torah states that "God breathed life into the form of Man (Genesis 2:7)." Sunlight for a tree, the warmth of friendship and community for a person. .
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