Tu B’Shevat 5782
Tu B’Shvat brings with it the beginning of the most magical season of the year. The air becomes fresh, the sky clears and the sun’s rays penetrate through the treetops. Winter is almost over and spring is upon us. It is wonderful that in the end, the trees will bear fruit.
For generations, the Kabbalists have used the path of tree development to define for us the process that people go through – from the beginning of their journey until they near perfection. The Kabbalists describe in a vivid and clear way, from personal experience, the process of our growth, which ends up producing sweet and juicy spiritual fruits. In their writings they name Tu B’Shvat as the holiday which symbolizes the climax all creation should, and can, reach and liken it to a fruit’s ripening.
As early as the 16th century, Tu B’Shvat was given special significance by the Safed Kabbalists, who even established the “Seder Lel Simchat Ha’Ilanot.” During the Tu B’Shvat seder, the Kabbalists used to sit and study from the Book of Zohar. They attached great importance to this holiday, and established it as a symbol of the opportunity each of us has to pick the best fruit that awaits us—a spiritual life.
Throughout our lives we set ourselves some goal and hope that upon achieving it we will be happy. The reward that stands before our eyes at that moment seems so appealing to us that we put a lot of effort into achieving it. We spend several years acquiring a profession, starting a family, and finding ourselves toiling for most of our lives to support our children and secure their future. Sometimes, when we wanted to refresh our lives a little, we save money to go on a trip and see the world. For a short while we achieve the reward, the “fruit”, that we wanted, but the enjoyment of it passes quickly and we return to the routine of our life again.
If we look at our lives, our aspirations seem to be constantly changing: what was yesterday’s goal is replaced today by another purpose, and what we desired yesterday no longer looks as attractive as it once was. It seems that even the things we have achieved, good as they are, do not satisfy us, and there is something within us that does not give us rest, but pushes us to seek at every moment a greater fruit that is higher up and harder to reach.
Our lives are in fact an endless pursuit of happiness, a pursuit that often causes us frustration and disappointment. Therefore, at some point, we begin to feel that the world is becoming insufficient and too small for us. Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, “Baal HaSulam”, explains that man does not yet know the beautiful and sublime fruit he is driven to seek, and therefore it seems to him that his whole existence is limited to the realization of the temporary and insufficient goals which he has pursued until now.
Rabbi Ashlag describes this feeling wonderfully in the parable of “the worm and the radish.” He writes, “The worm that was born inside the radish, she sits there and thinks that the whole world is so bitter, dark and small, like the radish she was born in.” The worm knows nothing but the bitter and dark radish into which it was born, and is therefore sure that all reality is as bitter as the place it has lived until now. But once the worm emerges from the radish, it sees “a great world—mighty, enlightened and wonderfully beautiful.”
As soon as people hear about the sweet, ripe fruit that awaits them in a spiritual life, as soon as they learn the way to attain this fruit, each person, like the worm, will be able to “get his head out of the radish.” Each person will begin to see the spiritual world, beautiful and full of light, waiting for him. Rabbi Ashlag emphasized in his writings that if we just open our eyes a little, it seems that the way to reach perfection is at our fingertips.
Happy Tu B’Shvat