“Be sure to plant trees, even if they have already been planted before you, and do not say: ‘I am old, I cannot eat from it’ – plant for future generations.”(Midrash Tanchuma, Kedoshim).
In the Hebrew calendar, there are holidays (Torah holidays) that were assigned to Israel by the Lord. There are also holidays established in memory of the amazing deliverance and salvation of the people (Purim and Hanukkah). There are also dates that, at first glance, are unremarkable and even somewhat unusual. But this is at first glance. Any holiday on the calendar is a kind of a road sign on our path of following the Lord. These milestones help us stop, get out of the cycle of our everyday life and understand where we are going.
So, Tu biShvat. This date (15 Shevat) is very prosaic and purely technical. It was associated with the beginning of bgining tithes from fruit trees during the first and second Temples. And that’s it. There was nothing festive about it. And only over the past centuries Tu-Bishvat has acquired an increasingly festive character. Much has been written about how this happened. We will proceed from the fact that this holiday is on our calendar today. So what? Maybe, since this date exists, it is worth stopping for a while and thinking about it. So, let’s begin. Tu biShvat is a holiday that, in one way or another, is associated with a tree. It is also often called the New Year of Trees. It is celebrated in the middle of winter. This time is a kind of turning point in the life cycle of the tree.
What happens to trees in winter? Although the trees seem completely lifeless in winter, the plants at this time only rests, accumulatse strength in order to throw off the winter shackles with the onset of spring.
“What we call the sleep of nature,” wrote S. Pokrovsky, “is only a special form of life, full of deep meaning and significance.”
This form of life of plant organisms is called a state of rest. In a state of deep dormancy, the plant’s metabolism is sharply inhibited and visible growth stops. However, this does not mean that all vital processes have completely stopped in it. The state of winter dormancy is a period of especially intense activity of the so-called meristem tissue, from which new cells and tissues arise. Without this, the forthcoming spring transition of the plant organism to active life would be simply impossible. That is why for a large number of plants, and above all for all perennial forms, dormancy is a prerequisite for normal growth during the warm period. This is also the time when the growth of the root system takes place, on which the future harvest depends.
There are also more and less active periods in a person’s life. No one can be constantly in a state of hectic activity. It takes a time of inner growth, rooting in God, His word, a time of accumulating strength in order to bear fruit at the next stage.
Also in the life of a tree there is a period of a seedling and a period of an adult tree. What is their difference? A seedling requires a lot of attention and care. In order for it to take root, special supports are used.
In the land of Israel, there was a law according to which during the first 3 years after planting a tree it was impossible to eat fruits from it (if, of course, they appeared). In the fourth year, all the fruits were sacred to the Lord. And only in the fifth year, the one who planted the tree could use the harvest from it.
And in this fact from the life of trees, you can find a parallel with a person. When people just come to the Lord, they need care, guardianship, so-called “supports”. And when there is affirmation, rooting, a person requires less and less attention for himself and more and more begins to think and care about others (“bear fruit”).
However, this is not always the case. Some people consider themselves to be seedlings for many years. And behave accordingly. Although, by all indications, they should already be bearing fruit for a long time. Tu biShvat is just a good time to deal with this matter.
From the point of view of a purely scientific and pragmatic person, it seems to an outsider to be very uneconomical and even a kind of waste on the part of a fruit tree to spend so much energy to provide someone with such juicy and sweet fruits and at the same time have nothing from it.
What does a tree get from its own fruits? It cannot eat them or harvest them. Of course, we know that if there are no tasty fruits, then no one will spread the seeds. Nevertheless, there should be a measure in everything. And in this sense, fruit trees give us an excellent example of how good it is not to be selfish and think not only about yourself: you grow yourself and treat others with your fruits. The fact is that a person must overcome one main drawback in himself – a terrible egocentrism rooted in him, when a person is not able to get out of the bounds of the formula: “I am here now.” The idea that “after us the flood ” is very clear at the level of child psychology. A person who is hungry and has eaten all the supplies, he at least plants potatoes or carrots in his garden. The man, who thinks not only weeks and months ahead, but years ahead – he plants trees.
And, if we take the next step, we can say that a person who thinks a generation ahead is engaged in education, which is not always rewarding and not always easy work.
And the trees, first of all, give us a lesson that “not only me”; and second, that “not only now”; and third, that “not only here.”
Tu biShvat is somehow connected with tithes, which were brought not only for the purpose of blessing the Lord, but also expressed concern for others (Levite, orphan, widow, poor, Temple service).
By offering tithes, the person participates in the common work of building Israel. And this is an obligatory minimum, from which it was possible to expand their participation in the life of the people. And it is quite possible that today the obligatory tithe for many becomes a transitional stage “from seedling to a tree”, when a person thus begins to participate in the common cause of restoration of the booth of David, gradually heading towards full dedication to the Lord and His purposes.
Another aspect of Tu Bishvat is associated with tree planting in the land of Israel. Traditionally, hundreds of trees are planted throughout the country on this day.
In the comments to this holiday it is written: “Be sure to plant trees, even if they have already been planted before you, and do not say:” I am old, I cannot eat from them “- plant for future generations.”
What we do today will be the starting point for the next generation. And it doesn’t matter whether we see the fruits of what we managed to plant or not.
The message to the Jews says about our fathers: “All these died in faith, not receiving the promises, but only saw them from afar, and rejoiced, and said of themselves that they were strangers and foreigners on earth.” We are their followers.
And if we do our part with faith, then our ministry becomes joyful and our life is meaningful. Because we are followed by those who will continue our work.
Plant for future generations with joy!