This week, we will celebrate (virtually) a very special bar mitzvah of Avraham Nahmad, a huge Mazal Tov to Marcos, Polly, Olga, Eduardo, Ruth, Avraham and Grandma Ruth Hamui on this special milestone. We look forward to hearing him read from the Torah next Shabbat. May you see him grow in the path of Torah and Mitzvot and get much nachat. Please G-d, may we share only beautiful, joyous occasions (hopefully soon in person).
This Wednesday night is Tu B’Shvat, known as the New Year of the Trees, which occurs on the 15th of the month of Shvat, 30 days before Purim and 60 days before Pesach (ladies, no pressure). Each of these holidays occurs when the moon waxes full, symbolizing a maximum capacity for growth.
The Torah compares people to trees, as it says, “a person is like the tree of a field” (Deut 20:19). Tu B’Shvat is a time in which we dedicate 24 hours to realizing and harnessing our budding potential.
It is customary in many Jewish communities to set one’s table with all kinds of fruits. Many customarily eat specifically the Shiva’t Haminim – seven species that the land of Israel is praised for (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates), with some eating as many as 30 different types of fruits! (Chemdat Yamim).
We all have periods of winter in our lives, times of darkness, coldness and ‘isolation,’ and sometimes it’s hard to imagine ourselves back in a positive place. After the long, cold months, most trees have lost their leaves, battered by the harsh winds and frost. When they look ready to be cut up and used for firewood, new life appears again. On Tu B’shvat, the sap begins developing a transformative cycle enabling the trees to blossom. These barren trees lay dormant for so long, make a comeback to life.
Tu Bishvat’s message is not to let the difficult non-productive times in our lives define us. Like trees, we too live our lives in cycles, like the moon that waxes and wanes, shrinking and disappearing before growing and becoming full. Life is a cycle, spring is just around the corner, and as the Talmud states, better times can come “in the blink of an eye.” As we witness the start of the transition from winter to spring, Tu B’Shvat teaches and builds our patience and trust that good times are ahead.
As we merited to come out of Egypt in this week’s Parsha, may we merit to be reunited sharing S’machot together soon.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay