The first Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah says that the fifteenth of Shvat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees. What does this mean? The Gemara explains that the fifteenth of Shvat is the cut-off point for determining which year a fruit will be considered to have grown. Any fruit that blossoms after that day will be considered a fruit from the coming year and cannot be used in calculating ma’aser from the previous year.
The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 131:16) says in the name of the Tikun Yissachar that there is a minhag Ashkenaz to eat fruit on Tu B’Shvat. The Knesses Yisrael explains that the minhag is to eat fruit specifically of Eretz Yisrael, in order to be mechavev the mitzvos and the fruit of Eretz Yisrael. The purpose of eating fruits of Ertez Yisrael is to cause us to think about Eretz Yisrael and come to have more chavivus for it.
We are living in a time when Hashem is constantly reminding us to think about Eretz Yisrael. The pasuk in Shir Hashirim perek 5 says, “Ani yesheinah v’libi er, kol dodi dofek – I am sleeping but my heart is awake, my Beloved is knocking.” The Midrash Rabba there explains that I am sleeping is a reference to the time before the geula when Klal Yisrael will be figuratively sleeping and unaware of the pending guelah. Libi – my heart, Hashem will begin to work on our hearts. He will begin to awaken us so we can prepare for the geulah. Hashem must awaken us to begin thinking about His malchus, malchus Beis Dovid, Eretz Yisrael, and the Beis Hamikdash. For, as the Yalkut Shemoni in Eichah says, in order for us to merit these things we must be mevakesh them, actively seeking them.
So, while we prepare for Tu B’Shvat this year let us contemplate what is behind the fruit that we are enjoying. Let us remember that we are not in our proper homeland, and we must strive and yearn to finally be redeemed and once again live in Eretz Yisrael with the presence of the Shechina.
Hashem orchestrates many occurrences in our daily lives to help us remember these fundamental principles. One example of this is the lease of a school in the heart of the Flatbush community to Urban Dove Charter School. This Charter school says in their mission statement that they cater to highly at risk public high school teenagers. As much as we try to create safe environments to raise our families in, and as much as we try to seclude ourselves from the raging sewer of immorality we are surrounded by, we are reminded, that this is not home. Smack in the heart of one of our communities out of nowhere a school for minority at risk teenagers will be bussed right in, free to roam our streets.
This school opens up new safety concerns for residents, as well as spiritual concerns. In case the recent rise in anti-Semitic attacks was not bad enough, there will now be an entire school of minority teenagers, who we know do not view us favorably, roaming the streets of Flatbush. How will this affect the level of spirituality. The answer is obviously negatively.
Needless to say, we should try to prevent, at all costs, this school from leasing space in any Jewish neighborhood, but at the same time we should also realize that this is a clear message that we do not belong in Flatbush or any other community outside Eretz Yisrael.
Tu B’Shvat is a time to think about our chavivus – love – for Eretz Yisrael. We have chavivus for Eretz Yisrael because it is the makom where Hashem rests His Shechinah. The reason that there is so much terror in Eretz Yisrael is because the Shechinah has not returned. Hashem has begun that process. He has returned us to Eretz Yisrael He has built there great yeshivos and communities and prepared such a wonderful infrastructure in advance of our complete return. It is time to seek with all our hearts v’sechezena einenu beshuvcha l’tzion b’rachamim – that we shall see with our eyes when You return to Tzion with mercy.
When we are properly seeking this, we will be zocheh with great simcha to see with our eyes the yeshuos Hashem and we will hear from Tzion the sound Hashem’s rule in Yerushalayim, speedily in our days, amen.