It's Tu B'Shvat- the Birthday of the Trees! Hooray! This is one of our 'minor' holidays that has blossomed during this past two decades. This 'Birthday for the Trees', which began as a tax day, the day to account for the fruit tithe, and became a mystics powerhouse when the day became transformed into the birthday for the Tree of Life! The Tree that brings life to the entire Earth! That was a mere 400 years ago (or so). Very young! They created the fruit seder, with 4 cups just like Passover, that we are riffing off of today.
In the past few decades, Tu B'Shvat has grown again, into our Jewish Earth Day, and a great day to remember that Judaism is filled with environmental teachings that connect us with the world around us. Here's one story I love and will share with the school later today. It's from the Talmud, the book of Ta'anit, compiled around 450 A.C.E. Hardly a fringe story from some hippie Hillel over in California someplace!
When Rabbi Nachman and Rabbi Yitzchak were leaving each other, Rabbi Nachman asked Rabbi Yitzchak to give him a blessing. Rabbi Yitzchak responded with a parable. A person was walking in a desert and he was hungry, tired and thirsty. He happened upon a tree which had sweet fruits, a pleasing shade and a spring of water flowing beneath it. The man ate from the fruits, drank the water and sat in its shade. When he was leaving the tree, he pondered as to how he can bless the tree. He could not bless the tree that its fruits should be sweet, its shade should be nice or that it should have a stream of water flowing beneath it since it already possessed all these things.
Pause: How would you bless this tree?
The blessing he gave was that it should be the will of Hashem that all the shoots planted from this tree should be just like it. Rabbi Yitzchak explained to Rabbi Nachman that he cannot bless him with Torah, riches or children since he already had all that. Rabbi Yitzchak blessed Rabbi Nachman that all his children should be just like him. (5b – 6a)
Chag Same'ach HaIlanot! Happy Day for all of the Trees in our lives!
A simple background pamphlet on Tu B'Shvat can be found by clicking here.