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Monday, Shevat 15, 5780 / February 10, 2020


Today is the 15th day of Shevat, also known as Tu B’Shevat - Rosh Hashana L’ilanot – New Year for Trees.  The 15th of Shevat is when the earliest-blooming trees, in the Land of Israel, emerge from their winter sleep and begin their new fruit- bearing cycle.


Q.    Why is it important to have a Rosh Hashana L’ilanot – a New Year for Trees?


A.    There are various tithes that have to be given from the produce which grow in Israel.  The tithes differ from year to year in each seven-year shmitah cycle.  One cannot give tithes from the new produce  for past year’s crop.  From the 15th of Shevat, the new budding fruits are considered to belong to the new year.


Q.    How do we mark the day of Tu B'Shevat?


A.    One of the ways is by eating fruits, especially the kinds which the Torah singles out in praise of the Holy Land.  They are: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.


Q.   What is the lesson mankind can learn from Rosh Hashana L’ilanot – New Year for Trees?


A.    The Torah declares, "Ki Ha'adam  Eitz Ha'sadeh" - "Man is compared to a tree."  Based on this, our sages have found similarities between trees and people and the lessons we can learn from a tree.


To ensure that a tree grows to be healthy, tall, strong and giving good fruits, one cannot wait to attend to the tree when the tree is fully grown. One must begin caring for the tree while it is still in its infancy and even earlier, from the time of planting.  For if the tree is not given the proper care from the very beginning, then even a small blemish and defect on the young tree may turn into a large scar and affect its fruits, when the tree is fully developed.


The same principle applies to people.  To assure that our children grow up to be spiritually and morally strong, we must teach them right from wrong while they are still young.  A negative impression, left unchecked on a young child, can in time become magnified and have a lasting effect.  


In Pirkei  Avot our sages teach us the following lesson based on the tree: Anyone whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are many, but whose roots are few. The wind can uproot such a tree and turn it upside down.  But one whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few and whose roots are many. Such a tree, even when all the winds of the world blow at it, will always stand firm.   


On Tu B’Shevat - New Year for Trees - we are reminded of the importance of being connected to our Jewish roots.  This way, no negative forces will be able to pull us and them away from our/their heritage.