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Tu B’shevat

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Some of the questions discussed in this book are the following.

 

What is the ultimate way to elevate the soul of one’s parents?
How does the death process rectify a person’s soul?
What profound life lessons can we learn from gravestones?
In what ways can the concept of reincarnation help us better understand life?
What is the idea behind davening at gravesites?
What will happen at the Resurrection of the Dead?

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Tu B’shevat

We are compared to a tree as it states כי האדם עץ השדה, man is a tree of the field.[1] In middle of winter, the trees look empty and dead. We all know that it is now when new life starts to pump through the trees as they begin to rejuvenate. The same applies to us. My Avodas Hashem may have been going through a difficult “winter” lately but this period has potential for rejuvenation.

ראש השנה לאילנות which is Tu B’shevat, brings renewal to the tree.[2] This also refers to the עץ חיים,[3] tree of life, Torah.[4] The Avnei Nazer explains that man’s fruit are his Chidushei Torah, his original Torah ideas and teachings. Just as on Tu B’shevat the sap rises up inside the tree, enabling a new crop of fruit, so too, there is a renewal in the Chidushei Torah, in the fruit of each jew.

In fact, the Avnei Nazer was able to tell a difference in his Torah before and after Tu B’shevat. He felt that his Chidushei Torah were enhanced due to Tu B’shevat. They were on a higher level than they were during the remainder of the year.

 

The Eretz Tzvi[5] adds that since “tree” is a reference to a person, as in כי האדם עץ השדה, the main Rosh Hashana (the main renewal) on Tu B’shevat is in fact for Chidushei Torah and not for the fruit of the actual trees.

 

We connect to a Yom Tov 30 days before it as the Sages instruct us that 30 days before a Yom Tov, we should learn (שואלין ודורשין) the Halachos of that Yom Tov.[6] A month before Purim (on a non-leap year) is Tu B’shevat. Purim is a form of Kabbalas Hatorah as the Gemara says that is when we received the Torah again.[7] In this way we should prepare ourselves as Tu B’shevat is a time of rejuvenation in Torah. It is specifically in שבט that we hope to merit שמרם ברכם טהרם, guard them, bless them, purify them.[8]

 

Rashi[9] comments on ועץ השדה יתן פריו, the tree of the field will give its fruit, that it refers to the אילני סרק, trees that do not bear fruit which in the future will produce fruit. This is also a hint to humans who are compared to a tree, that those Jews who are אילני סרק will bear fruit, Chidushei Torah, in the future. R’ Moshe Wolfson points out that ועץ השדה יתן פריו has a numerical value of 1,236, the same equivalent as חמשה עשר בשבט. Astounding!

The Divrei Chaim would make an extravagant seuda on Tu B’shevat. He explained that from Rosh Chodesh Shevat until Shavuos there is a Yom Tov at least every 15 days. They are Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Tu B’shevat, Rosh Chodesh Adar, Purim, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Pesach, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Pesach Sheini, Rosh Chodesh Sivan and Shavuos.[10] Is it any wonder that the letters of שבט form the phrase שנתבשר בשורות טובות, be informed of good news?![11] The month of שבט should be one of שלום, טובה, ברכה, peace, goodness and blessing.



[1] Devarim 20:19. The Maharal explains (Chidushei Agados, Nida 25) the pasuk that compares man to the tree of the field (Devarim 20:19). The head is his root and his hands and feet are the branches forking away from its sides. Man is an upturned tree, as his roots are above. His mind, which is in his head, is planted in heaven, because man is connected upwards towards heaven. Therefore, like the tree’s roots are in the earth, as it grows from the earth, so man’s root is in heaven, from where he originates.

[2] Rosh Hashana 2a. The Mazel of Shevat is the דלי. This hints to water as in יזל מים מדליו, water shall flow from his wells (Bamidbar 24:7). With this we can find a hint to Tu B’shevat in (Tehillim 1:3) והיה כעץ שתול על פלגי מים אשר פריו יתן בעתו (simple meaning: He shall be like a tree deeply rooted alongside brooks of water, that yields fruit in its season), as מים refers to Shevat. פלגי is a reference to the 15th day as פלג means half (as in פלגא דגופא, a half of a body) referring to halfway through the month, the 15th day. So, on the 15th of Shevat it is the time of the tree (עץ שתול) which yields fruit (אשר פריו יתן בעתו) (See Ateres Yehoshua, Tu B’shevat, s.v. בפסוק). On this day the Mishna Brura (131:31) writes להרבות אז במיני פרות של אילנות, we increase in the types of fruits from trees. Another hint to Tu B’shevat is found in שבטי י-ה עדות לישראל להדות לשם ה’, the tribes of Hashem, a testimony for Israel to give thanks to the name of Hashem (Tehilim 122:4). שבטי alludes to שבטי-ה has a Gematria of 15, thereby making reference to the 15th of Shevat. On this day we thank Hashem by saying a Bracha on fruits (See Toldos Yitzchok)

[3] Mishlei 3:18. Indeed, it was in the month of Shevat that Moshe began to explain the Torah to us (Devarim 1:3,5).

[4] The pasuk (Mishlei 3:18) calls the Torah an עץ חיים, a tree of life. The Vilna Gaon’s brother, Rabbeinu Avraham (In the beginning of the sefer Maalos Hatorah, s.v. v’shamati) says the following: A tree is a single entity that splits up into numerous subentities in the form of branches. These branches yield further subentities in the form of fruits. The fruits are comprised of different parts, including numerous seeds. A single seed is one part of one piece of fruit of one branch of the tree. Yet when that seed is planted, an entire tree can grow from it. This means that every seed actually contains a representation of the makeup of the entire tree. The same is true with mitzvos which are fruits of the tree of Torah. Every mitzva is a distinct subentity of the Torah but each mitzva contains within it the “code” of the tree. So all mitzvos are inextricably interconnected to the extent that there can be aspects within a certain mitzva which may be related to, and representative of, other mitzvos. We can understand this in that the body consists of various parts each with its own discrete form and function. However every single part of the body shares the same DNA as the rest of the body. So too each mitzva contains the “DNA” of Torah which unifies it with every other mitzva.

[5] Shu”t Eretz Tzvi, Volume 2, Drushim, Drush 1.

[6] See Pesachim 6a. A hint to this is found in the letter ל, which has a numerical value of 30. This alludes to that 30 days prior he should learn about the Yom Tov, as ל spelled out is למד, a reference to לימוד, learning.

[7] Shabbos 88a.

[8] In אנא בכח.

[9] Vayikra 26:4.

[10] Siach Tzadikim, p. 30.

[11] See the fourth yehi ratzon after Krias Hatorah before Ashrei.

Writer of the weekly Fascinating Insights Torah sheet in Englishעברית ,אידיש and français
Author of Seven Books including the recently released “Remarkable Insights about Death and the Afterlife”

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