Spirit of the Law: Tu B’Shvat
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter (140 #26) :
“The fifteenth of Shevat is Rosh Hashana for trees…The custom is to eat many different species of fruit on this day.”
I: Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that every human being is always longing for Hashem. A Jew’s longing for connection to Hashem is even more powerful. Usually, this longing gets channeled into other areas. People mistakenly think they yearn for money, honor or physical pleasures such as food. Attaining these never satisfies in a lasting way however, since the source, the inner desire for closeness to Hashem has not been addressed, just stifled.
When the Maharil Diskin, zt”l, was asked why the gemara compares the sinners of Israel to a pomegranate, he responded “A pomegranate has a hard exterior upon which no good is noticeable. It is only if you open it up, and delve into it’s depths that one finds the many, many good seeds in the Rimon.” Even if you peel off the outer shell you see only the white insides. You only find the seeds by breaking through the bad. Similarly, every Jew is a neshama kedosha which is always yearning with a powerful longing for his source. “
On Tu B’Shvat the sap begins to rise in trees. It is partially due to this process that the tree later develops in the spring. This is why it is Rosh Hashannah for trees.
The verse states, “Man is as a tree of the field.”The “sap” of each person is the hidden inner essence of each person, their fiery longing for Hashem. Like the sap of trees, the inner essence of each person is aroused on Tu B’Shevat. Connecting to our inner longing is the prerequisite for all spiritual growth.
This is one reason we eat fruits on this holy day. We acknowledge the correlation between bearing spiritual fruits and arousing our powerful yearning for Hashem. The more we connect to our powerful inner longing for Hashem, the more spiritual fruit we will bear in the coming year. The less we connect, the more this longing will be misdirected towards the material and the less spiritual growth we will yield. It is our choice.
May Hashem help us to grow and thrive, and bear an abundance of spiritual fruit.
II: On the subject of Tu B’Shevat, the Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, shares a very powerful concept: the “new year’s” judgment of Tu B’shvat primarily determines one’s access to novel Torah concepts (chidushei Torah) for the upcoming year.
Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt”l, writes that there are two levels of chidushei Torah. The first is the joy and rapture of bearing and sharing the fruit of one’s Torah learning, bringing down and sharing novel Torah concepts. This is the spiritual root of the sweetness of fruit to the palate. Without this feeling of sweetness, a person has virtually no genuine connection to Torah even if he or she learns assiduously and innovates novel interpretations. The second, lower, level of chidush is accessing a feeling of renewal and connection from every bit of Torah learning, prayer, and avodah even when there is nothing objectively novel about the concepts in which one is immersed. One still feels a powerful joy and connection, and this is the ultimate fruit of Torah study, as we say in the daily blessing: “Hashem, please make Torah learning sweet in my mouth.”
courtesy of A Fire Burns in Breslov