web analytics
November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Tu B’Shevat, Human Beings, And Trees


The source for Tu B’Shevat is the opening Mishnah of the Talmudic tractate Rosh Hashanah: “The Academy of Hillel taught that the 15th of Shevat is the New Year for the trees.”

What does that mean, “New Year for the trees”?

Tu B’Shevat is technically the day when trees stop absorbing water from the ground and instead draw nourishment from their sap. In halacha, this means fruit that had blossomed prior to the 15th of Shevat could not be used as tithe for fruit that blossomed after that date.

So what relevance does this have for us in the 21st century, when most of us are not farmers?

In various places, the Bible compares a person to a tree:

● “A person is like the tree of a field ” (Devarim 20:19)

● “For as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people.” (Isaiah 65:22)

● “He will be like a tree planted near water ” (Jeremiah 17:8)

Why the comparison? A tree needs the four basic elements in order to survive – earth, water, air and fire (sunshine). Human beings also require the same basic elements. Let us see how by analyzing these four essential elements individually.

Earth: A tree needs to be planted firmly in the earth. The soil is not only the source through which nourishment is absorbed but also provides room for the roots to grow.

This is true of a person as well. The Talmud explains, “A person whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are numerous but whose roots are few. The wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down. But a person whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place” (Avot 3:22).

A person can appear successful on the outside. “But if the roots are few” – if there is little connection to one’s community and Torah heritage – then life can send challenges that are impossible to withstand. “A strong wind can turn the tree upside down.” A person alone is vulnerable to trends and fads that may lead to despair and destruction. But if a person, irrespective of wealth and status, is connected to his community and Torah heritage, then “even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place.”

People require a strong home base, one where Judaism’s values and morals are absorbed and that provides a supportive spiritual growth environment.

Water: Rainwater is absorbed into the ground and, through an elaborate system of roots, is carried throughout the trunk, branches and leaves of the tree. Without water, the tree will wither and die. The Torah is compared to water, as Moses proclaims: “May my teaching drop like the rain” (Devarim 32:2). Both rain and Torah descend from the heavens and provide relief to the thirsty and parched. The Torah flows down from God and has been absorbed by Jews in every generation. Torah gives zest and vitality to the human spirit. A life based on Torah will blossom with wisdom and good deeds.

Deprived of water, a person will become dehydrated and ultimately disoriented, even to the point where he may not be able to recognize his own father. So too, without Torah, a person becomes disoriented – to the extent he may not even recognize his Father in Heaven.

Air: A tree needs air to survive. The air contains oxygen a tree needs for respiration, and carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. In an imbalanced atmosphere, the tree would suffocate and die.

The Torah (Bereishis 2:7) states that “God breathed life into the form of Man.” The Hebrew word for “breath” – neshima – is the same as the word for “soul” – neshama. Our spiritual life force comes, metaphorically, by way of air and respiration.

We use our senses of taste, touch and sight to perceive physical matter. (Even hearing involves the perception of sound waves). But smelling is the most spiritual of senses, since the least “physical matter” is involved. As the Talmud says (Berachot 43b), “Smell is that which the soul benefits from and the body does not.”

About the Author: Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher is dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva in Jerusalem.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Tu B’Shevat, Human Beings, And Trees”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
F-16 fighter jet.
ISIS ‘Prince’ of Iraq’s Anbar Province Killed
Latest Indepth Stories
Gush-Katif-082412

Former PM Ariel Sharon succinctly said, “the fate of Netzarim (Gush Katif) is the fate of Tel-Aviv.”

Red Line Obama

“What’s a line between friends?”

West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)

Unrest in YESHA and J’m helps Abbas and Abdullah defuse anger, gain politically and appear moderates

Thousands of rabbis pose in front of Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn on Sunday during the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.

A “Shliach” means to do acts with complete devotion and dedication in order to help bring Moshiach.

The pogroms in Chevron took place eighty five years ago, in 1929; the Holocaust began seventy-five years ago in 1939; the joint attack of Israel’s neighbors against the Jewish State of Israel happened sixty-six years ago… yet, world history of anti-Semitism did not stop there, but continues until today. Yes, the primitive reality of Jews […]

“We don’t just care for the children; we make sure they have the best quality of life.”

“Why do people get complacent with the things they’re told?”

Arab opposition to a Jewish State of any size was made known by word and deed in the form of terror

Operation Moses: First time in history that non-blacks came to Africa to free blacks from oppression

As Arabs murder and maim Jews, Jordan’s leaders bark the blood libel of “Israeli aggression.”

Perhaps attacking a terrorist’s legacy broadly and publicly would dissuade others from terrorism?

R’ Aryeh yelled “Run, I’ll fight!” Using a chair against terrorists to buy time so others could flee

Riot started when Muslim students wore the Pal. kaffiyeh and Druze students demanded them removed

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

More Articles from Rabbi Ephraim S. Sprecher
chain.jpg

Rambam: Regarding a husband who refuses to give a Get: “He is beaten until he says, ‘I agree.’ ”

Raindrops on a lemon tree in Eretz Yisrael.

Increased education about the land, the people, and the Torah of Israel is the antidote to today’s confusion.

Why not tell us that Purim is to be commemorated with reading the megillah, dispensing mishloach manot, giving gifts to the poor, and partaking in a Purim feast?

It all comes down to our state of mind.

The Talmud (Berachot 26b) says, “tefillot avot tiknum” – “prayer was established by the avot.” The Talmud then uses the following verse (Bereshit 19:27) to prove how Avraham established prayer: “Vayaskem Avraham baboker el hamakom asher amad sham et pnei Hashem” – “And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before God.”

We have a custom of reciting Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs) on the Shabbat during Pesach. Many reasons have been offered to explain why.

The festival of Chanukah celebrates two miracles – the military victory over the Syrian Greeks and that one small cruse of oil, good for one day, providing light for eight days. The miracle of the light, however, is the main focus and central theme of this festival.

The number four seems to play a major role in the Pesach Seder. We have four questions, four sons, four terms of endearment and, of course, one of the major features we soon will be enjoying – the drinking of four cups of wine.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tu-bshevat-human-beings-and-trees/2011/01/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: