Learning wisdom from the trees
Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, falls on the 15th day of the month of Shvat. Beyond its agricultural significance, this day calls us to harness the power of a new start and take that first step to kickstart the ‘spring’ in our lives. Here are three inspiring messages of the day.
Where you think is where you are
On Tu B’Shvat we have a custom of eating fruits such as figs, pomegranates, dates and olives, yet in reality look around – there are no fruits yet on the trees! We’re in the middle of winter; isn’t this celebration a little premature? The message of Tu B’Shvat is that although the fruit have not yet grown, the process which creates them has begun!
For people, our fruits are our deeds and achievements – and they too have their origin. They begin with an idea. Rabbi Nahman of Breslov taught, “A person is not only where he is physically, but where he is thinking about being.” When an idea crystalizes in our minds, we are already halfway towards achieving it. Tu B’Shvat’s message is that all great accomplishments begin is a compelling idea and goal. So dream, think positive and celebrate the power of our ideas!
Let nature inspire you
Rabbi Avigdor Miller, one of the last generation’s great rabbis, was known to take time appreciating the awesomeness of nature, marveling at the intricate detail and unfathomable wisdom in the world that God made. “Look at this apple, so perfect, so sweet, so round,” he would say before channeling his gratitude into a blessing. Nature is not only there to feed us, but also to inspire us.
On Tu B’Shvat we can look at trees and their fruit as our teachers and guides. The date palm which grows in salty conditions yet brings forth honey teaches us to extract the good from the bad. The olive tree, which produces oil, encourages us to bring more light into the world, and the grape which is crushed before producing expensive wine, teaches us the value of humility.
The Kabbalistic Tu B’Shvat Seder is replete with these pearls of wisdom intended to help us elevate our lives, improve our character and aspire to greatness.
Spring is on its way
We all have periods of winter in our lives, times of darkness, coldness and isolation, and sometimes it’s hard to imagine ourselves back in a positive place. In Israel, after four long, cold months most trees have lost their leaves, battered by the harsh winds and frost. Just when they look ready to be cut up and used for firewood, new life appears again. The almond tree blossoms, these barren trees which have laid dormant for so long make a comeback.
Tu B’Shvat’s message is not to let the difficult non-productive times in our lives define us. Like trees, we too live our lives in cycles, like the moon that waxes and wanes, shrinking and disappearing before growing and becoming full. Tu B’Shvat falls during a full moon. Life is a cycle, spring is just around the corner and as the Talmud states, better times can come “in the blink of an eye.” As we witness the start of the transition from winter to spring, Tu B’Shvat teaches and builds our patience and trust that good times are ahead.