Tu Bishvat and our hope for a better future
In a few hours we will begin the celebration of Tu Bishvat, the 15th of the month of Shvat which establishes the "New Year of Trees". The celebration has a distinctly national theme: the renewal of natural life in the Land of Israel, which is the birthplace of the Jewish State - the State that marks the beginning of the redemption of our People.
In the Diaspora and Israel, many Jewish families and communities include a Tu BiShvat Seder - similar to the Passover Seder, where they eat typical Israeli fruits and drink red and white wines. In Israel, there is an addition to this beautiful ritual: youth and families visit the forests of the country - which have the highest level of afforestation in the world. This establishes their contact with one of the most tangible contributions among our people and the God of Israel: the greening of the world He gave us as His inheritance.
The fruits we eat are divided into three basic categories:
* Fruits of the World of Creation (God's): fruits we can eat in full, i.e. figs.
* Fruits of the World of Creativity (humans): those we eat in majority, and plant their seeds for its reproduction - such as apples.
* Fruits of the World of Action: those we eat the content but their shells are discarded - i.e. nuts.
Tu Bishvat is both the celebration of the natural world, in its universality, and the particular relationship the Jewish People have with the Land that allows the totality of our Jewish identity. It is heaven, earth, man and God, all interrelated, and the People of Israel, Land of Israel, State of Israel and God of Israel, in their most basic connection.There is something beautiful in the message of our Sages of the choice of date for the celebration of this natural rebirth: the middle of winter in Israel. Common sense would say that this celebration should take place on the 1st of Nisan - the beginning of spring, a better date to celebrate the renewal of the natural cycle of the Land, "the New Year of Trees". Our Sages include an additional message to those we pointed out - the universal/ecological message and the national redemption of the Land of Israel. They teach us that after the winter cold and the "freezing" of nature that, after the strongest storms, the sun will reappear, and with it, recreate natural life once again. We celebrate Tu BiShvat in the winter as a hopeful assertion that much of the richest, most productive, more encouraging initiatives and actions are born precisely in difficult times of darkness and cold; that the world is recreated in its challenges, replicating and expanding past creations in the spring to come. We welcome the trees in winter, because we know that they will get through it - as we will - renewing their magic foliage in the future.
May we learn to celebrate the life of the world we live in, respect it and give it the knowledge we have for its best future.
May we be able to feel our deepest connection to the miracle of the Land of Israel and the State which was reborn in it.
And may we be able to see the light, heat and spring in the "winters" that life will likely bring to us.
Tu Bishvat Sameach!
RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union