Since TT is published on Wednesday, which happens to be Tu B’Shevat, I feel that this article is still timely.
In various places in Tanach a person is compared to a tree. "A person is like the tree of a field…"(Devarim 20:19). "For as the days of the tree shall be the days of My people." (Yeshayahu 65:22). "He will be like a tree planted near water…"(Yirmiyahu 17:8)
What does the tree metaphor represent? The Maharal explains that the human body is shaped like a tree. The body is compared to a tree trunk, and our limbs are compared to the tree's branches.
A tree, like a human being, needs the four basic elements to survive and thrive. The four basic elements that we and the tree need to survive are 1) Earth, 2) Water, 3) Air and 4) Fire (sunshine).
The idea that a person is like a tree is that unlike an animal that has a fixed, static nature, we are a product of cultivation and efforts to shape and develop our character traits. The tree is also the Torah's metaphor for growth, the capability that each one of us has to become a better person. In Judaism's view a person is like a tree that needs cultivation and TLC to thrive. Torah and Mitzvot are G-d's program to develop ourselves spiritually and socially.
This approach brings us to one of the most unusual days in the Jewish calendar, known as Tu B’Shevat. What is remarkable about this celebration is that Tu B’Shevat is neither a Torah ordained festival nor even a Rabbinic holiday.
Tu B’Shevat 's significance is Halachic in NATURE (pun intended?), for that day delineates a New Year for the trees regarding the Mitzvah of Maaser. This means that fruit which has blossomed prior to the 15th of Shevat could not be used as a tithe for fruit which blossomed after that date.
What relevance does this have for us in the year 2018, when most of us are not farmers? In celebrating the trees we are essentially focusing on the way in which people are similar to trees. We are saying that like trees, people are capable of growth. Babies are born as takers, but as adults we should become givers. On Tu B’Shevat the tree teaches us that life is all about growing, developing, progressing, and bearing fruit, i.e., offspring and Mitzvot.
Our motto in life should be Growing, Progressing and Developing each and every day. This is one of the lessons of Tu B’Shevat. Trees are symbols of growth and development, and we too should always be looking to grow and to develop into becoming better people.
P.S. Did you hear about the tree surgeon who opened a BRANCH office?