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Parshas Beshalach - Tu B'Shvat 5776 - Rosh Hashana for the Trees

 

The Mishna says, “The first of Shvat is Rosh Hashana of the tree, according to the House of Shammai; the House of Hillel holds that it is the fifteenth of Shvat.”

The obvious question is why the Mishna states the view of Bais Shammai first and adds the view of Bais Hillel as secondary, when in fact, we go according to Bais Hillel.

Another famous question is why we recite blessings on fruit when the trees are being judged. We should be bringing trees into shul, like we do on Shavuos, and not focus on the fruit. It is also surprising that we take fruits of the previous season, at a time when we pray for the trees to produce fruits in the future. After all, the fruits we take on Tu B’Shvat are no longer being judged.

To explain all this, let’s point out that we can only pray for the quality of the fruit while it is still attached to the tree. If it is picked prematurely, before it had a chance to ripen, the tree can no longer nourish it.

This is true about trees, and it would therefore stand to reason that the same would hold true about a person as well. Our sages tell us that a person is likened to a tree. So if a fruit can no longer derive any benefit from the tree once it has been picked, a person would likewise no longer have any connection to the Tree of Life, the Torah, if he would chasv’shalom sever himself from its life-giving source. But in actuality, this is not so! A Jewish soul can always reattach itself to the branches of the Tree of Life, even if outwardly the person has severed every connection.

It says in the Torah, “Hashem will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your children.” The Rabbis explain that if a person experiences the terrible anguish of having a child who veers of the derech, and nothing seems to help, he should search his own heart and see what he needs to correct in himself. Once he “circumcises his heart,” this can affect his child and Hashem will cleanse and purify the child’s heart as well. The child’s heart will open up to accept the Torah again. A Jewish soul is never lost. No matter how far away he wanders, he can always find his way back.

Tu B’Shvat is Rosh Hashana of the trees - the father who produced the fruit. If the father will search his own heart and soul and try to become a better Jew, his children will reflect this change in their own conduct.

This is why we take fruits on Tu B’Shvat that have already been picked, although they are no longer subject to judgment themselves. We recite the blessing over them and beseech Hashem that the fruits of our nation, our precious children, should never be severed from the Tree of Life, and if chas v’shalom one of them would fall off the Tree, he should be reconnected.

Klal Yisroel is likened to grapes. Just as grapes are served on the vine, Klal Yisroel always stays connected to the Tree of Life – Hashem and the Torah.

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Tu B’Shvat is a favorable time for those who have not yet been blessed with children, to pray for “fruit.” The possuk lists among the blessings for Klal Yisroel (Vayikra 26:4), “The trees will produce fruit.” Rashi adds, “Even trees that would normally not produce fruit, will produce fruit.”

Tu B’Shvat, the Rosh Hashana of the trees, is an opportune time to recite the blessings on fruits and mention in our prayers to Hashem the tremendous nachas He has from each and every Jewish child. When a boy is born, his journey through life is celebrated with so many special mitzvos, including a bris milah, his wearing yarmulke and tzitzis, learning Torah, becoming bar mitzvah, and so much more. A girl, too, is raised to a life of Torah andmitzvos. These “fruits” are truly deserving of blessing, so when we recite the blessings on the fruit, it is a favorable time to have in mind those who do not yet have children, so they too should be blessed.

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The Hebrew word for fruit, peiros, has the numerical value of terufah, cure. Tu B’Shvat is also a favorable time to merit a full recovery from any type of disease, be it physical or emotional. The weekly Torah portion includes the account of Matan Torah, at which time the ill Jews were miraculously cured in preparation of receiving the Torah. So this has a double significance at this time and we should all have in mind to pray for those who are in need of a recovery. We should also pray for all who are waiting for any type of yeshua, such as ashidduch. The spelled-out word “fifteen” in Hebrew has the numerical value of “Gates of Joy.” On the fifteenth of Shvat the Gates of Joy should open for everyone.

Our original question was why the Mishna mentions the opinion of Bais Shammai first, considering that we adopt the opinion of Bais Hillel. We all know that when Mashiach comes, we will follow the rulings of Bais Shammai. Bais Shammai’s view on this issue hints to this fact: B’echad b’Shvat (on the first of Shvat) implies that with the coming of Mashiach, the world will acknowledge that Hashem “echad” – Hashem is One! Klal Yisroel will become united with Hashem and all of humanity will join together to serve the Ribbono shel Olam. “In that day Hahsem will be One (echad) and His name will be One.” Klal Yisroel will join together in perfect unity, and the entire world will be united with Hashem.

The Mishna cites Bais Shammai’s view that on the first of Shvat is Rosh Hashana of “the tree” – in singular form. This alludes to the Eitz Hadaas, the Tree of Wisdom, from which Adam and Chava ate on the first day of their creation, transgressing Hashem’s command. If they would have waited until Shabbos, the tree’s fruit would have been permitted to them and the entire world would have come to its supreme purpose. But alas, they sinned and ate from the Tree, and in result they were banished from Gan Eden. All their descendents, to this very day, must suffer in life and death to atone for this terrible sin.

When Mashiach will come and the entire world will become “echad,” the sin of the Tree will be atoned fore. All this is alluded to in the Mishna that cites Bais Shammai’s opinion.

The word Shvat could mean a stick, and could indicate that before the Redemption arrives, Klal Yisroel would suffer the birth-pangs of Mashiach. However, Bais Hillel’s view encourages us by hinting that this must not be so. The Fifteenth hints at “Gates of Joy,” telling us that Mashiach can be revealed to us in joy, not just in suffering.

Klal Yisroel has had more than its share of suffering. We pray that since we rule according to Bais Hillel, may we indeed merit the Redemption in Joy, when the purpose of creation will finally be achieved and Hashem’s glory will be revealed to the world, Amen.

This Weeks Divrei Torah is dedicated in honor of:
Shmuel ben Chaim
Feinberg A"H
5708-5769 9 Shvat

This Weeks Divrei Torah is dedicated in honor of:

 
 
 
 
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