Tu BiShvat, which takes place on the 15th of Shevat, seems to be a Jewish holiday of lesser significance, as if hidden among the distinctive Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Purim, Passover and Shavuot. Its customs are simplistic and few: eating dried fruit and drinking some wine while the children plant tree seeds.
However, according to its inner meaning, the holiday of Tu BiShvat holds monumental importance among the Jewish holidays, as it discusses a very important discernment on our path to a harmonious reality: the discernment of needing to choose an environment, plant ourselves in it, invest in it, and care for the means that can grow us to become more and more optimally connected.
In our current times, as we plod on in the midst of heated social division, terror and nuclear weapon anxiety, the reawakening of Nazi, fascist and xenophobic tendencies, as well as increasing depression, stress and loneliness, the holiday of Tu BiShvat comes to remind us of nature’s positive power. The seed we plant in the soil symbolizes the great potential that dwells in our connections.
This seed will germinate and grow into a life-giving tree, which will later bear fruit. For example, a feeling of safety and confidence in the streets, the reduction of economic inequality and disparity, a healthcare system that concerns itself with all people, and the education of connection-enriching values. The wisdom of Kabbalah, the teaching of how to draw nature’s force of positive connection into our relations, is the water. When we let the spirit of positive connection, “the water,” flow between us, it serves to lubricate our connections, vitalizing them with nature’s positive, connective force.
Investing in rich, fertile soil can be likened to building an environment that will value nature’s quality of love, bestowal and connection above any other values. That is Tu BiShvat’s universal message. It is also the reason why Kabbalists have always regarded the holiday with utmost importance. As the Torah compares humanity to a “tree of the field,” Tu BiShvat, also called “the New Year for Trees,” is an invitation to the beginning of growth, the beginning of a new life.
“The person is called a tree of the field, and Rosh HaShanah is the time of judgment, for better or for worse. … It is written, ‘Forever is mercy built’ (Psalms 89:3). So on Tu BiShvat, which is called the New Year for Trees, we must be strengthened with the quality of kindness, because for this we merit fruit, which is called ‘a tree bearing fruit.””
—Rabbi Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag, Dargot HaSulam, “The New Year for Trees”
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