Tu B’shvat is the New year of the trees. In this time of the year in Israel the sap flow of the tree, sraf, comes up again. The chiut, the life force, that seemed to have disappeared in winter, becomes visible again.
The Tchortkover rebbe taught that when someone has lost everything, and has lost all hope, he has to meditate about a tree in winter. His leaves have fallen, his sap does not flow, he looks very dead. But suddenly he is revived and starts to bring up fluid from the ground. He starts blooming and produces fruits. Therefore one should not despair. Man is like a tree.
A life with only ups and no downs seems ideal. But is that true? Especially our down periods stimulate us to become creative, to change our route, to learn about ourselves. What would our life look like if there never was a challenge? Many people start to create their own challenges if life does not offer them. Would we ever reach the same heights if there were no challenges?
In the parasha of this week, Yitro, our people receive the 10 utterances, an absolute top experience in our history. But only after 210 years of exile. Only when the suppression was worse than ever they developped the courage to walk their own path, as pointed out by the Holy One. According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the mazal , the astrological sign, of Shewat is a bucket. A bucket is lowered into the well empty, and brought up again with water in it. Yerida tzorekh aliya, is what the Chassidic masters say, to rise one has to descend first.
For the kabbalists of Sefad in the 16th century, the tree had a great symbolic value. The great work of
Chayyim Vital, in which he records the teachings of rabbi Yitzchak Luria, is known as Etz Chayyim, the tree of life. According to a part of it, Peri etz hadar, the sin of Adam, eating of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, is compensated by the eating of fruits at Tu b’Shwat. The festival of Tu b’Shwat could cause a great tikkun olam, a healing of the world, by healing the distorted balance. And let us not forget the balance in ourselves.
I wish you all a joyful Tu b’Shwat. May we in the new year of the trees contribute our fruit to the healing of the world, and may we continue to grow ourselves. Wechol atze hasadeh jimcha’u kaf, then all the trees of the field will clap their hands in joy! (Yesh.55:12)!