Latest update: January 27th, 2013
The Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 1:1) relates that Tu B’shevat is the New Year for Trees. Every tree’s production during the coming year is decided on that day.
In order to produce growth and vegetation, a farmer knows that it is not enough for him to plant seeds and simply water. He must also pull up the weeds around his vegetation and prune the unnecessary branches on his fruit-bearing trees.
The physical world is a metaphor for the spiritual world. As the Chosen Nation it is not enough for us to engage in altruistic acts of kindness and holiness. We also have an obligation to weed out evil and chop away at those who seek to undermine our message.
A number of years ago I had the opportunity to accompany a friend who was driving Rav Aharon Schechter, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chaim Berlin, to a wedding. It was shortly after Yasir Arafat had died and I asked the Rosh Yeshiva how a Torah Jew should view his death. Rabbi Schechter replied succinctly by quoting a verse in Mishlei (11:10), “ובאבד רשעים רנה – And when the wicked are destroyed (there is) joy.
Tu B’shevat is not only a holiday in and of itself, but it also ushers in a joyous period of celebration. Tu B’shevat is thirty days prior to Purim (except in a leap year) and Purim is thirty days prior to Pesach, when we begin the count toward our annual (re)acceptance of the Torah on Shavuos. [In fact, there are opinions that directly connect the joy of Tu B’shevat with the imminent days of joy.] The winter may still be casting its bitter cold shadow, but within the trees the sap is beginning its ascent in its preparation for the rebirth of spring.
In a spiritual sense as well, we recommit ourselves to our unyielding love for G-d and His Service and our passionate enmity for those who have committed themselves to its opposition.
The destruction and undermining of evil is a cause for celebration and song. Thus the Shabbos when we read about the destruction of the Egyptians and the weakening of Amalek becomes “Shabbos Shirah,” a Shabbos of song!
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 In 1827, Czar Nicholas I introduced what became known as the Cantonist Decrees. (The name came from the word “canton,” meaning “military camp.”) These decrees called for the forced conscription of Jewish boys into the Russian Army. These boys were between the ages of 12 and 18 and were forced to serve for 25 years! During their army service, every effort was made to convert them to Christianity.
 Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik zt’l (1820-1892), the saintly Rabbi of the town of Brisk and the father of Rabbi Chaim Brisker.
 See Devarim (25:17) “Remember what Amalek did to you on the road when you left Egypt.”
 Winston Churchill commented that “An appeaser is one who feeds acrocodile – hoping it will eat him last”.
 As the Ramban mentioned in his famous debate against the renegade Jew, Pablo Christiani in 1267 in front of Spanish King James I of Aragon, “How much blood has been shed and how much have we suffered at the behest of the so-called “religion of love”?”
 Koheles 3:8
 וַיַּחְמֹל שָאוּל וְהָעָם עַל אֲגָג [שמואל א’ טו:ט]. אמר רבי שמעון בן לוי: כל שהוא אכזר על רחמנין – סוף שהוא נעשה רחמן על אכזרים. כל שהוא רחמן על אכזרים סופו ליפול בחרב
About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.
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