WHAT IS TU B'SHEVAT ?
Tu B'Shevat (Hebrew: ט״ו בשבט) is a Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, the 11th month in God's Calendar. In 2020, Tu B'Shevat begins at sunset on Sunday, 9th February and ends at nightfall on Monday, 10 January. It is also called "Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot" (Hebrew: ראש השנה לאילנות), literally "New Year of the Trees."
This is the day when the sap begins to rise in the fruit trees in Israel—the start of a new growing season.
Tu B’Shevat holds legal significance in Jewish law with regards to the tithing of fruit in Israel, but it’s also celebrated with joy as we look forward to the sweet bounty of the coming year. We mark the day by eating fruit, particularly from the ”Seven Kinds” that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the Holy Land (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates). On this day, we remember that “Man is a tree of the field” and reflect on the lessons we can derive from our botanical analogy.
In the 16th century, a Tu B’Shevat Seder, somewhat similar to the Seder for Passover was created. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel, while reflecting, discussing and applying its lessons to our own lives.
Among other things, the Seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, and to develop a good and generous eye for the world around us.
WHAT ARE THE 7 SPECIES OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL?
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; Deuteronomy 8: 7-8
Wheat corresponds to chesed (kindness), the first of the seven lower sefirot. The characteristic of chesed is expansion, to reach out and extend oneself toward others. Wheat likewise reflects the nourishing food of kindness and to this day remains our main sustaining food staple. According to the renowned rabbi and physician Maimonides, wheat strengthens the body and increases mother’s milk, the ultimate nourishment and expression of chesed.
Barley corresponds to gevura (restraint). Its characteristic is contraction, reduction, and setting boundaries. This is reflected by each barley seed being enclosed in a strong hull (boundary) which remains intact even during threshing. Due to its contracting quality, barley is highly effective in reducing liquid when added to soup. A recent study by the FDA evidenced that barley reduces cholesterol and risk of coronary disease.
Grapes grow in beautiful clusters and correspond to tiferet (beauty). This trait is characterized by the balance between its different and sometimes contrary components. Since tiferet is the perfect balance between chesed (kindness) and gevurah (restraint, self-discipline), grapes include both nourishing and eliminating qualities. Grape-seed oil nourishes the skin, while also containing a very high content of antioxidants that help in eliminating free radicals.
Figs correspond to netzach (endurance), which engenders longevity. The fig tree reflects everlasting fruitfulness as it has one of the longest periods of ripening, spanning more than three months. Malbim explains that we need to watch the fig tree very carefully by picking its figs daily, since they ripen one after the other; likewise we need to observe our teachers daily in order to glean the fruits of their wisdom.
Pomegranate, a very beautiful and majestic fruit, even has a crown. It corresponds to hod, which means majesty and glory. Hod is also related to the Hebrew word toda which means thanks and recognition. According to Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, hod corresponds to our immune system. A healthy immune system is able to recognize our friends from our foes, and pomegranates boost our immune system.
Olive oil corresponds to yesod (foundation). Maimonides explains that olive oil cleanses the liver and loosens stools. Drinking a teaspoon of olive oil every morning before eating can help prevent stones in the urinary tract. Olive oil protects against heart disease by lowering blood pressure, and has strong anti-bacterial properties. It also contains several antioxidants to help fight cancer. Thus olive oil can truly be called the foundation (yesod) of life.
Dates correspond to malchut (kingdom). Malchut is the channel that allows everything to manifest below. Therefore malchut is connected with the digestive system. The palm tree has no waste, its hearts are used for prayer (lulav), its fronds for shade, its fibers for ropes, its twigs for a sieve, and its beams for houses. Likewise the people of Israel have no waste: they each master their own particular part of Torah learning or perform mitzvot and charitable deeds (Genesis Rabbah, 41).
GROWING LIKE A TREE
Lessons we can learn from trees and apply to our lives
6 Lessons in Honour of Tu B'Shevat,
The Birthday of the Trees.
Lesson 1 - Let Go Of The Past
Trees let go of their dead leafs. Check out whether our choices today are being made based on our present values and experience or fuelled by our past experiences and knowledge. Let YHVH Guide us, we need to let go of our past, step into the present with Him and grow to be like Yeshua.
Lesson 2 - Growth Takes Time
The greatest tree was once a little seed that hold it's ground. Sometimes it seems we are not moving forward in spite of our efforts to grow. Growth is often subtle and slow. Consistency and courage nurtures our growth even when we can't see any progress. Hold your ground. One day we will reach further than we can imagine.
Lesson 3 - Plant Today
If we haven't plant a tree 20 years ago the best time to do it is NOW. It is never to late to start something new. Every seed we plant counts and is a gift to the next generation.
Lesson 4 - Give Life
Trees produce the oxygen we breathe. They give us life. We can also give life by teaching others what we learn, by inspiring each other and by choosing to use our resources to give.
Lesson 5 - Reframe Darkness
Seeds are buried deep down in the earth's dark surface. They shiver in the frozen soil, their shells break apart, leaving them opened and exposed. But the seed wouldn't grow if it remained in the light or if its shell was protected. Darkness and brokenness often surround us before we can break through the surface. Sometimes the worst moments come before the greatest light.
Lesson 6 - Reach For The Sky
New trees are fragile. They can't reach very high. But even the smallest tree looks like it's trying to touch the sky. The higher we aim, the more motivated we will be to reach for greatness.