This article is being written a day after the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat. On Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, we celebrate the New Year for trees. On this day, it is customary to eat different fruits, especially those from the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised in the Torah.
The timing of this celebration seems strange. If we were to celebrate when the trees become covered with fruits, it would be understood. Yet, we celebrate the New Year for trees when the trees are barren, cold, orphaned from their foliage and produce. For us living in Ottawa, the 15th of Shevat is usually a day when the trees are not even visible. They are covered in heavy snow. Why celebrate a New Year for trees in the dead of winter?
The Talmud explains that in the Land of Israel, by the 15th of Shevat, most of the winter’s rain has saturated the earth, and the new sap starts climbing in the trees, allowing the first flowers and fruits to bud shortly after. By this day, a new sap rises into the tree that allows its future rejuvenation.
It is true that, when you look at the tree on Tu B’Shevat, it looks lifeless and barren. It displays no signs of rebirth and no signs of a new life. It will still take some time to develop buds, and it will take even more time to pick the actual fruits. Nevertheless, that is only on the surface. Although you can’t see any change, life is starting to flourish anew secretly.
Tu B’Shevat is the celebration of potential, invisible yet real. All of the future growth of the tree is possible only due to the sap rising in the tree at the time of the 15th of Shevat. The potential has been created and that is a good reason to celebrate.
My dear teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Ob”m, once related that Tu B’Shevat teaches us an invaluable lesson in life. It is very important for us to recognize and celebrate the potential that exists in every situation and not get frustrated by the process. Even when we can’t see the fruit yet, we must celebrate the process of growth itself and the tremendous potential that exists.
We all deal with various struggles in life that we need to work on. These can be internal or external challenges. As we begin to work on them, we can easily get discouraged as no sign of success is in sight. The dark nights are long and all is covered in snow. Tu B’Shevat reminds us that under all that cold and snow, the sap of the trees is rising, readying for spring.
Tu B’Shevat signifies that we have to learn to celebrate potential even before we can see the results. That is the reason why we eat fruits precisely then. We want to recall that the final product is never created in a vacuum; it all traces back to this moment when the inner work began.