CHAGIM U ZEMANIM – TU BE’SHEVAT.
Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
On the Fifteenth day of Shevat we do not say ‘tachanun’ as it is Rosh
Hashanah for the Trees. It is not clear at all why this should be the case.
After all, the day only commemorates facts of nature; the time when most of
the rains have fallen, the sap in the trees has risen and the fruit has
started to bud. There is no sanctification involved, no mitzvah incurred
and no miracle occurred for the Jewish nation. Regarding Tu Be-Av on which
we also refrain from ‘tachanun, at least our Sages adduced a number of
factors relating to Israel [for example, the peace between the tribe of
Binyamin and the other tribes after ‘ Pilegesh Bagivah]. We have therefore
to try and understand what teaching lies beyond the natural occurrence of
“As the rain and the snow fall from the Heavens and do not return there
until they have watered the Earth and caused it to give birth and to bud,
that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word
be that goes out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me void but it shall
accomplish that for which I sent it” (Isaiah, 55:10). Here the prophet
compares the spiritual words of Hashem to the fructifying rainfall. The
essence of the trees is their role as the force connecting the fruit to the
nourishing earth; a hint of the spirituality contained in their materialism-
gematria for ‘etz’ is 91, corresponding to the two Holy Names, Jehovah and
Lord in their Hebrew form, that connect Heaven and Earth. Furthermore,
fruit has the power to nourish Man spiritually; The Arie z’l, in
commentating on the verse (Devarim, 8:3), “Man does not live on bread
alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of Hashem”, teaches
that the word of Hashem contained in the bread nourishes Man spiritually.
[The Admor of Kotsk taught that in saying the beracha on bread we should
intend to remove its earthiness from it].
So Man is compared to the trees (Devarim, 20:19) in that he links Heaven to
Earth, being as he has neshama from on high and the material body that
houses that neshama. Furthermore, Chazal saw the reason for the ‘eglah
arufah’, in the victim’s not having future fruits; fruits understood as
mitzvot (Sotah, 46a). Therefore, Man with his practical and physical
performance of the mitzvot that come from on High, constitutes a melding of
the material earthy things to those of the elevated spiritual heavenly
ones. Just as the rain that the prophet compared to the word of Hashem,
waters and fructifies the trees, so does the Divine light in the hearts of
people cause them to create their fruits, mitzvot. The amount of rain and
its subsequent harvest of fruit depend on the spiritual behaviour of people
as we learn (Rosh Hashanah, 17b), that when the people were evil, Hashem
allocated rainfall out of the required seasons; in effect making it
insufficient. So too, the spiritual presence that one is granted is
dependent on the avoda and torah of the person; where they are deficient
and muddled by materialism, the presence is disturbed and bothered so that
it is wasted and ineffectual.
By the first trimester of the year most of the rains have fallen and the
fruits begin to bud. In that same period, by virtue of the instant decree
for the righteous on Rosh Hashanah and the chesed of Yom Kippur and the
first day of Sukkot that enables even those undeserving ones to draw closer
to Hashem, the spiritual presence in Man is heightened, there is increased
ecstasy and an outpouring of the soul.
With the advent of Tu Beshvat, Rosh Hashanah Leilanot, that marks the
beginning of the second third of the natural year, starts the actual
forming of the fruit from the buds and the full use of the sap of the
trees; a preparation for the actual harvests. Man too, enters the second
trimester in which the spiritual presence, the increased ecstasy and the
soul’s outpouring brought about by tekufat Tishrei and its chagim, comes to
fruition. The Midrash (Parshat Shmot) tells us that the heart is in the
upper third of the human body, so that by this time, just as the sap has
risen in the trees, Man’s heart has already reached completion and is
filled with spiritual wonder and awe. Man can now enter the elevation of
the Arba parshiot, Purim, Pesach, Sefirat Haomer and Shavuot. Even those
who have been remiss in their avodah, by virtue of the soaring of their
hearts and the expansion of the Divine Presence brought to fruition by
tekufat Tishrei, enter a new period.
In this way we can understand the difference in opinion between Bet
Shammai and Bet Hillel concerning the date of Rosh Hashanah Le Ilanot. Bet
Shammai, according to their viewpoint of Midat Hadin, claim that just as
tzaddikim are inscribed immediately on Rosh Hashanah regarding their
prosperity, rainfall and health, that is, on the first of Tishrei, so too
the rain and the sap of the trees and the fruits are judged on the first of
Shevat. However, Bet Hillel whose whole philosophy is that of chesed, fixed
the judgement day of the trees on Tu B’Shevat. This corresponds to the
chesed that Mankind has in judgement, by virtue of the first day of Sukkot
that is the fifteenth day of Tishrei.
There is thus no tachnun on Tu B’Shevat, for it is truly a day of rejoicing
for Israel, who desire to serve Hashem with the heart and not mechanically
and out of habit. They can do so through the service of tekufat Yishrei and
the elevation of the trimester starting with Shevat.
Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.