Tu B'Shvat: Trees, Israel and Geula
Why is there a special New Year for trees? On Tu B'Shvat, the almond trees in the mountains of Israel begin to blossom, carrying a special message for the Jewish People...
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
This time of the year, the trees are celebrating. On Tu B'Shvat in the Land of Israel, the deciduous orchards are coming back to life, with almond being the first to blossom. Not only do they celebrate the New Year for trees by vibrantly awakening from their winter slumber, but tradition tells us that the blossoming trees of the Land of Israel are the forerunners of the Geula, the full redemption of our people, speedily and in our days, amen...
The trees are indeed privileged in that they merit their own special new year, the 15th of Shvat or "Tu B'Shvat". What makes them so special?
The Midrash tells us that one of the first things that Hashem did on earth was to plant trees, for the Torah tells us in the account of creation, "And Hashem the Lord planted a garden in Eden". The trees, especially fruit-bearing trees, are so special to Hashem that He gave a separate commandment in the Torah against uprooting them.
One of the first things a person is supposed to do when he comes to the Land of Israel is to plant fruit trees. In this manner, the settlers of the Land of Israel are truly partners with the Almighty in creation. How? The Torah calls the Holy Land "a land of milk and honey" more than a dozen times. Rashi explains that the honey that Torah refers to is the honey that flows forth from the luscious dates and figs, two of the seven special species of the Land of Israel that the Torah praises. Therefore, those who plant date palms and fig trees help the Land of Israel manifest its potential from creation, for they are the fortunate emissaries who enhance the flow of honey in the Holy Land.
An additional potential of the Land of Israel is that its hills shall bloom with the blossoms of fruit trees. This itself, mentioned both by the Prophet Ezekiel and the Midrash connect the dots between trees, the Holy Land and the Geula – the full redemption of our people and the ingathering of the exiles - as follows:
Ezekiel the Prophet says, "And you, O mountains of Israel, shall give forth your branch and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for they are soon to come." The Prophet hereby indicates that when the mountains of Israel flower with fruit blossoming tree branches, Nefesh B'Nefesh can expect to work overtime. The blossoming mountains of Israel herald the Geula! No wonder we celebrate the New Year for trees!
The Gemara is even more explicit: Rabbi Abba says that there is no greater sign of the imminent Geula as when the mountains of Israel blossom. Since the Land of Israel begins to blossom on Tu B'Shvat, we see Tu B'Shvat as a special day with the intrinsic quality of triggering the Geula and bringing Moshiach.
King David teaches that trees symbolize fertility. Many childless people have been blessed after they've planted fruit trees in their yard, especially in the Land of Israel. This is understandable, especially in light of the fact that Hashem runs the world in a measure-for-measure fashion: if you help the Land of Israel bear fruit, Hashem will help you bear fruit. An additional beautiful custom is planting a fruit tree every time a new child is born. This custom stems from ancient Israel, where the parents of a boy would plant a cedar when the boy was born, and the parents of a girl would plant an acacia tree when the girl was born. When a the boy and girl would get engaged to be married, their wedding canopy was built from their respective cedar and acacia trees.
Enjoy the fruit of our Holy Land and may you be blessed with wonderful fruit of your own.
Happy Tu B'Shvat!
 - Vayikra Raba, 25
 - Genesis 2:8
 - See Deuteronomy 20:19
 - Leviticus 19:23
 - Rashi's elaboration of Exodus 13:5
 - Deuteronomy 8:8 – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates
 - Sanhedrin 98a
 - See Psalm 128:3
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.