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Parshot Festivals

The relevance of Tu B’Shvat for the youth of SA

  • ParshaRabbiPink
The Mishna in the tractate of Rosh Hashanah teaches us that there are four New Years in the Jewish calendar.
by RABBI PINI PINK | Jan 17, 2019

On the first of Nissan, there is the new year for kings and festivals. On the first of Elul, there is the new year for the tithing of animals. On the first of Tishrei, the new year for mankind and for years. On the fifteenth of Shevat, the new year for trees.

Obviously, the most well known is the first of Tishrei, the day that G-d judges and decides what will happen to all of mankind in the coming year. On the fifteenth of Shevat (often referred to as Tu B’Shvat), G-d decides what’s in store for trees and plants, how much they will grow, will they give fruit, will they survive the winter and continue to stand strong, or will they be struck by a bolt of lightning?

The obvious question is why it is relevant to us that G-d judges the trees, or that they have a new year?

The Torah teaches “Ki Adam etz hasadeh – man is like a tree of the field”. If we take a slightly deeper look, we see that a person resembles a tree in many different ways.

One of the special characteristics of a tree is that it never stops growing. Its whole purpose is to grow. It starts as a tiny seed, then grows into a small sapling, and eventually into a tall and strong tree. The surroundings and nourishment this small seed and sapling receive greatly affect its growth.

If a small sapling is deprived of water or sun, its growth will be stunted, it cannot grow on its own. During a child’s formative years, its influence and nourishment are most crucial.

Studies have shown that a child’s brain is sponge like, meaning it can absorb and take in all that goes on around it. When surrounded by positive influences, people who fill their lives with studying the Torah and performing mitzvot, we can hope that this positivity will reflect on the child.

You would not plant an apple tree in the middle of a barren desert, and expect it to flourish and grow into a fruit bearing tree. In the same way, we can’t put our children and youth in the middle of a world devoid of goodness and expect the next generation to be caring, kind, and compassionate.

Our body is dependent on healthy food and drink, the correct vitamins, the right amount of sleep and exercise. But our body is also dependent on our soul, and our soul also needs nourishment. How can we nourish something spiritual? We feed it by performing mitzvot and studying Torah. But, the most important is to remember that all we have comes from Hashem.

Of course, the lesson of continued growth applies to children and teens even more than it applies to adults.

If we look at the externals of an adult, we won’t notice their growth, even though there is constant subtle change on the inside.

However, if we look at a child or teen, we see obvious physical growth. If you measure a child now and then again in a years’ time, there is a good chance they will have grown taller. As important as it is to grow physically, we also need to grow in character, in who we are, and what we are all about. We need to make sure that we are always striving to become a better person.

Another way man is compared to the tree of the field is by connection to fruit. Many trees are fruit bearing. For these trees, this is the purpose of their creation. What is a sign of a healthy tree? A tree that bears many healthy fruit. So too, man was created to produce fruit. These fruit are our good deeds.

Obviously, the more good deeds we do, the better people we are. But another important comparison between the fruit of a tree and our good deeds is that the fruit of a tree contains seeds, which allows the fruit to continue to grow after the seeds are planted and begin to grow.

Our good deeds, should not be a once-off occurrence, they should be long lasting, and have a domino effect of producing further good deeds. And, just as the seed is deep inside the fruit, our good deeds should be part of who we are, part of our DNA.

Living in South Africa in this day and age, we can sit back and watch the world around us, or we can stand up strong like a tree, making sure our good deeds are permeating the society around us. This way, we will have a positive effect on our friends, family, and generations to come.

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