“Is a Man a Tree of the Field?” (Deut. 20:19) asks the Torah rhetorically.
Happy Tu B'Shvat!
The holiday of Tu B’Shvat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat) which occurs this year on Monday, February 10, 2020 is called by our sages ‘the New Year of Trees.’ This holiday is an important agricultural marker in the time of the Holy Temple, for the scheduling of various tithes (separations) that are given to the Kohanim, the Levites and the poor are determined according to this day.
It is taught that the majority of the winter rains in the Land of Israel have fallen by this day, and the fruit which blossoms from this day onward is considered to be the produce of the new year. On this day, the accumulated rain water of the last four months begin to ascend in the veins of the trees, heralding the rebirth of spring and the promise of new life.
Although Tu B’Shvat is marked as a ‘minor holiday’ by Jews the world over, it is a distinct manifestation of the holiness of the Land of Israel, and thus traditionally the day is uniquely celebrated in the Land of Israel by partaking of the fruits of the land; the ‘seven species through which the Land of Israel is praised’ (Deut. 8:8): wheat, barley, grapes, fig, pomegranate, olive oil and date honey.
On a deeper level, the theme of this month of Shevat is the concept of renewal and rebirth, not only for the ‘trees of the field,’ but for the whole world. This idea reaches its crescendo on Tu B’Shvat, when, our sages teach, a unique wave of Divine energy flows through all of creation Deep within the natural world, the vital force of life begins to rise up, within each tree, within each blade of grass, preparing for renewal.
But what about people?
“Is the tree of the field a man?” (Deut. 20:19) asks the Torah rhetorically. Why does Torah compare a human being to a tree?
The great sages teach that this is no simple metaphor. We have the ability to channel this month's wave of spiritual renewal.
Like all the opportunities for sacred rendezvous in time that the Torah presents us with, Tu B’Shvat offers us a Divinely-appointed chance to achieve rejuvenation in our lives.
Thus although a ‘minor’ holiday, Tu B’Shvat is actually one of the most joyous days of the year: The agricultural aspects of the day’s promise of renewal and rebirth within nature, alludes to the potential for renewal within each person.
Like the trees, we look Heavenward for our sustenance, putting down our roots and spreading our branches…and hoping to bear fruit to leave something behind in this world that will make a difference.
Happy New Year!