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Why do we humans attach such significance to the New Year of Trees?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Tu B'shvat | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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1. The Torah tells us that "Man is [compared to] the tree of the field".1 There are many powerful lessons we can learn from our vegetative counterparts. Here are three examples:

(a) Keep on growing...

A tree never stops growing. No matter how large the tree is, every year it adds height and thickness. Additionally, the tree isn't satisfied with the fruit it produced last season; every year it continues to offer the world new fresh produce.

We too must always continue to grow in our knowledge of Torah, service of G-d and relationship with our fellow man. And the mitzvahs we produced yesterday--the charity we gave, the Tefillin we donned--don't exempt us from doing the same today.

One who only does mitzvahs when in the mood or when a particular mitzvah finds favor in his/her eyes is comparable to a tree without roots that can be toppled by even a weak wind

(b) ...but always remember your foundation.

A tree cannot survive, and certainly won't produce a quality crop, unless it has strong viable roots.

Similarly, our fruit, i.e. our Torah and good deeds, must be grounded in a strong foundation of faith in G-d and commitment to fulfilling His will. One who only does mitzvahs when in the mood or when a particular Mitzvah finds favor in his/her eyes is comparable to a tree without roots that can be toppled by even a weak wind.


(c) Care for the seedling

Did you ever try to grow a tree? If you did you know very well the amount of care it requires. Furthermore, even a slight damage or nick to the seed or tender sapling will cause a gross malformation in the grown tree. However, once the tree is full-grown, it fends for itself and can withstand even large scrapes and bruises.

Education isn't any different. A young child's mind and heart are so so delicate. It is so important to make sure that they receive proper Jewish care and are not exposed to undesirable 'nicks and bruises.' Never say that your child's Jewish education can wait until he/she matures. By then it is usually too late.


2. Tu b'Shvat is a day to celebrate our special relationship with our Holy Land. On this day we thank G-d for the Land and its bountiful produce.

Footnotes

  • 1. Deuteronomy 20:19.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Tefillin
Black leather boxes containing small scrolls with passages of the Bible written on them. Every day, aside for Sabbath and Jewish holidays, the adult Jewish male is required to wrap the Tefillin--by means of black leather straps--around the weaker arm and atop the forehead.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.