This Sunday Chabad Japan had a very successful women’s get together in honor of Tu Beshevat. Special thanks to Adi Speigler for a fantastic job on the Shiatsu presentation. The women were involved and had a great time. Professor Pauline Reich gave a thourough and well researched talk, which was greatly appreciated by the women. The participants made fruit baskets to celebrate the special day of Tu Beshvat. It was a colorful and tasteful project that everyone enjoyed. Rebetzin Yael Aldrich gave the tone to the evening by enlightening us with the historical background of the day and the practical application and lessons for our day to day lives as Jews. Her eloquence and message left a deep impression and impact, Yeshar Koach!
”Roots and Fruits” By Yael Aldrich
Tu B’Shvat is one of the four new years in the Jewish calendar. FOUR New Years? Yes, there are four – in Tishrei (the Rosh HaShana we all know with the shofar, apples and honey), the first of Elul, the New of the animals (in regards to the tithing process), the first of Nissan (the New Year in the calculation of the reign of Jewish kings and of the pilgrimage holidays of Sukkot, Shavuot, and Pesach), and the New Year of the trees, Tu B’Shvat.
If I ask a random Jewish person what she knows about TuB’Shvat, there might be a blank stare or perhaps a remembrance of a Tu B’Shvat seder with red and white grape juice and dried fruit or the blue and white JNF (Keren Kayemeth L’Israel) tzedaka boxes and buying trees to “green” up Israel. But there is much more to the holiday and we can join this holiday to the vision that we as Jewish women have for our families, both nuclear and the greater Jewish family of which we are a part.
Because this a holiday about trees we need to learn a little about what Judaism has to say about them. There are numerous laws dealing with agriculture in our religion, many of which even quite knowledgeable Jews know little of. When a person grows fruit-bearing crops in Israel, there is a requirement to tithe a percentage of the crop. In different years, different groups (cohanim, the poor, food to eat in Jerusalem) get portions of this tithe. Tu B’Shvat is the cut off point for determining to whom the tithes are directed. If a tree has begun the process of bearing fruit (the flower petals have fallen off and the fruit bud is visible) before Tu’B’Shvat, its future crop will be counted for tithing with the previous year.
These same trees have another set of laws that the Jewish farmer must observe. The fruit from a fruit tree anywhere in the world must go through three complete growth cycles from its planting before we can enjoy them. If a tree is planted we have to wait until the Tu B’Shvat after its third year to utilize the fruit. The ancient Rabbis declared this time of year to be the delineation between years for fruit because in Israel, the rains have (hopefully) been coming down for a couple of months and trees planted then should be able to take root and thrive.
Now, what does this have to do with the Jewish family? We, as Jewish women, have been given the amazing opportunity to nurture the people around us to achieve greatness in becoming better human beings. Like the farmer with his orchard, we have children, friends, spouses, and especially ourselves to encourage to greater heights in spirituality and closeness to G-d.
Like the fruit trees, we have certain seasons in which we have to give our gifts to various people in our lives Some years we support our spouses to work on our marriages with us, some years we encourage our children to embrace Jewish learning, some years we focus on friends and loved ones and some years it is our turn to look into our lives and figure out how we can grow Jewishly. We must toil to enrich the ground in which we are all planted with love, happiness and connection to our Jewish roots to ensure the future fruits are plentiful and sweet. Sometimes it is years before we can see that the hard work we did has sprouted strong roots and branches. But with our labor and G-d’s help, we will see the successful results from the people around us. Then we can enjoy these fruits after they are ripe and ready, then thank G-d, as we say in the Birkat Hamazon, “and you shall eat and be satisfied and bless the L-rd your G-d for the good land which He has given you.”