by Rabbi Yoav Druyan
It’s Shevat and all we can think about in Eretz Yisrael is Tu BiShvat!
But how do you celebrate Tu BiShvat in chutz laaretz? And what does it really mean?
The Mishna in Rosh Hashanna [Ch1:Mishna 1] teaches us that there are four Roshei Shanna and that Tu Bishvat is the one where we acknowledge the renewal of the trees. (There is actually an opinion that this occurs on the first of Shevat but we do not follow this opinion.) The next mishna teaches us that we are judged at four intervals during the year. On Succos we are judged to determine our rainfall and on Pesach, our grain. On Rosh Hashanna we all come before Hashem, single file, and on Shavuous we are judged regarding the fruits of the trees. Wouldn’t we expect the judgment of the trees to occur on Tu Bishvat, and not on Shavuous?
In good Jewish fashion, the answer is, it occurs on both.
There are two different aspects to trees and their fruit. Essentially, they fulfill two separate tasks. Firstly, and most basically, trees are there to showcase the masterful brushstrokes of the Grand Artist – from the great towering oaks to the delicate and flowering fruit trees. Secondly, trees are a means by which mankind thrives. By furnishing us with fruit, we are able to live and give praise to Hashem for His wondrous creation.
In their first function, trees are renewed, and perhaps judged, on Tu BiShvat. The judgment for the fruits of trees, as they pertain to mankind, is reserved for Shavuous. Why should our judgment come on Shavuous? Because that is when we express our tree-ness to its fullest.
In some ways we ourselves are like trees. The simple fact of our physical existence, the myriad complex systems that enable the human body and mind to function, proclaim in an unambiguous fashion the glory of the Master Craftsman. And all that is before we open our mouths! The Gemara in Shabbos (127a), that we say every morning with Birchos HaTorah, actually tells us that we have the ability to bear fruits! Our mitzvos generate derivative merits that are considered our fruits. And the most prolific mitzvah ? “…ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולם” “…and the study of Torah is equivalent to them all”. It is those “fruits” that find their fullest expression, and subsequent judgment, on Shavuous.
So, armed with this greater understanding, how do we celebrate Tu BiShevat? In the following three ways; firstly, by appreciating all the trees that Hashem has put here in this world, especially if He put it in His own special corner (Eretz Yisrael). Moreover, we celebrate Tu BiShevat by appreciating all that these trees can do for us and our avodas Hashem. And lastly, and most importantly, by blossoming forth as trees ourselves. With every mitzvah we do we are putting forth another fruit into this world. With every word of Torah we learn, we are multiplying our crop of zechuyos. With every chessed that we perform we are building a mammoth harvest of hatzlachos. This Tu Bishvat, we are all farmers. Let’s pick as many mitzvah fruits as we can!
Rabbi Yoav Druyan lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh with his wife and family. He has spent the last ten years teaching in seminaries including (but not limited to…) Darchei Bina, Sharfman’s, MMY, Beer Miriam and the Tiferet Center. He is currently at Bnos Chana, Afikei Torah and Tomer Devorah. His weekly divrei torah can be found at www.tapintotorah.blogspot.com.