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The Place of Tu BiShvat Amongst the Mo'adim

Oct 21, 2009 by Rabbi Pesach Siegel


 Tu BiShvat, occupies an enigmatic place amongst the mo'adim of Klal Yisroel. It's official status is a day which is designated as a cut off point for the ma'aser year. Deemed a Rosh HaShana in Torah SheBa'al Peh, yet seemingly devoid of the dinim of a Rosh HaShana. It's true status and meaning is elusive.


Tachanun is not recited, as well as the Av HaRachamim prayer (when Tu BiShvat falls on Shabbos). According to some Poskim, the day has the status of a mo'ed and one does not say Tziduk HaDin. Fasting is not permitted.


There are no positive commandments to perform, although minhagim abound. A minhag to partake of fruits, particularly those of Eretz Yisroel, or a new one that has not been eaten that year.


The seforim hakedoshim point us in the direction of the sin of the eitz hada'as in order to unearth the secret of Tu BiShvat.


Adam HaRishon was placed in a fruit orchard. Animal flesh was forbidden for consumption. He was to subsist on the fruits of the trees alone. As a result of eating from the eitz hada'as he was cursed. He would eat the produce of the ground that would offer up its yield by the sweat of his brow.


The fruit of the tree are distinct from the produce of the ground. The tree remains alive even after giving up its bounty. Year after year the tree constantly imparts life to our world in a display of immortality. A seed that is planted in the ground withers away while producing one plant and one plant only. Any further growth must come from replanting anew.


Similarly, Adam was meant to live forever. For one who was meant to live forever fruit of the trees is highly appropriate. After partaking from the forbidden fruit, a sentence of death was passed on him, hence the change to his diet. He would be reduced to eating from that which has no continuity, the produce of the ground.


What was nature of his sin? The depth of his sin? The posuk tells us that Chava was attracted to the appearance of the fruit. It appealed to her desires. The appearance was evidence of the luscious flavor within.


Hashem's wisdom dictated that ta'am (taste) be part and parcel of the foodstuffs we depend upon for our very lives. He created within man a craving, an intense longing for  this very ta'am. This was intended to ensure man's survival. Man is powerfully drawn to the act of eating. Had this not been a part of the makeup of man, mankind would be in risk of dieing of starvation.


The ta'am is not an end within itself. It is a means to facilitate the consumption of the life contained within the food. The ultimate goal is life, not just temporary enjoyment.


The desire for pleasure intoxicates a person. Enjoy the moment! Revel in the pleasure! Eat, drink, and be merry. DON”T THINK! Whatever you do, DON”T THINK! Live for the here and now. Values become warped. Life assumes a secondary position to pleasure.


This is best illustrated by the way the Torah describes the achila of a tzaddik in comparison with that of a rasha.


The posuk in Mishlei (13, 25) says, "Tzaddik ochel lisova nafsho" – The tzaddik eats to satisfy his nefesh. He eats in order to perpetuate his life force. This is his goal in eating.


In contrast, when Eisav haRasha returned from an exhausting day of wickedness, he pleaded with his brother Yaakov, "Halitayni na min ha'adom ha'adom hazeh" – Fill me with these red lentils. The Targum Onkelus renders the word "halitayni" as "atimayni" from the root "ta'am". Eisav was devoid of strength, close to death's door and yet his sole concern was, "Fill me with pleasure".


Desire can be the means to obtaining life, but also within desire lurks the danger of being lured away from life.


When Adam haRishon partook of the fruit of the eitz hada'as, it affected him. He no longer was primarily drawn to the fruit of the tree due to the life contained within. The external temporary trappings of things now figured prominent and he was filled with a ta'ava to pursue pleasure for its own "merit".


The term "Rosh Hashana" conveys the idea of the ending of one cycle and beginning of another. Tu BiShvat is part of the process of returning mankind to the level of Adam haRishon kodem hachait (Adam's level prior to his sin). The damage to the tzelem Elokim was done on many levels.


There are other times during the year that are designated to repairing the loftier parts of the neshoma. It is of course integral that intellectually we should choose life over thrills, but it is much more of an accomplishment if our desires are pointed in the proper direction. The ta'ava of a Ben Adam is one of his lowest and unrefined components.

It is seemingly mundane and animalistic.


Throughout the dark winter, the trees appear lifeless, devoid of life granting sap within. Tu BiShvat is the time when they are rejuvenated and are chock filled with life, potential life waiting to burst forth. Hashem blesses this month and grants special assistance to all those who seek to free themselves from the shackles of ta'ava. The siyata dishmaya (heavenly assistance) is there, just reach out and grab it.


Eat a new fruit, meaning….. eat a fruit like one has never eaten a fruit before. Eat one from Eretz Yisroel – engross one's self in the kedusha of a fruit from Eretz haKedosha. Partake of the shivas haminim – Chazal reveal that the eitz hada'as tov vora had the taste of the shivas haminim!


Don't fast! Of course not!! It is a day of kapara for the chait of Adam haRishon. It is a day to eat what he ate. To eat and thereby connect with the life force within food. What is the life force in food? The posuk says, "Ki lo al halechem levado yichye ha'adam ki al kol motza pi Hashem" – Man does not live by bread alone, he lives from what emanates from the mouth of Hashem.


One who is successful in redirecting his desires, he desires kirva (closeness) to Hashem. His attraction to food is due to the life that Hashem put into it, not the shallow, superficial, externalism of the food. This is Hashem's food!! He gave it to us. His nourishment is on another level completely. Hashem wishes to sustain such a person indefinitely. There is no reason for one such an individual to die. Thus there is no mention of death on Tu BiShvat, no Av HaRachamim prayer, no Tzidduk Hadin.


It is a day when we are given the opportunity to lift up the lowest part of ourselves, our ta'avos. Being so, it takes place on a weekday, a mundane day, a day devoid of sanctity.


And…… it is a happy day when we have the chance of ridding ourselves of the passion that fuels our sins. No Tachanun is said.


A Gutten Yom Tov!!!!


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