The Tree of Life in Tu BiSh’vat
Racheli Morris, Director of Education
I have often seen in our congregation the ceremony of a child holding a Torah passed from grandparent to parent to child in a bar or bat mitzvah and always see the strength of our Tree of Life—Eitz Hayim. Our point of view is embedded in nature whether we talk about roots, flowers, branches, seeds and many other words related to a tree. We are fast approaching the holiday of Tu BiSh’vat, the 15 of Sh’vat, which has us count the age of fruit trees for the purpose of offering first fruits as a sacrifice to God. Presently, our environment is something that we are all concerned to protect because the ‘tree of life’ is essential for us, like all other trees. Our Promised Land, Israel, is noted to be a land flowing with milk and honey. In addition to the trees, we have milk (our children) and honey (the Torah). The trees, the mild, the honey are as extensive as our imagination. The land and trees need us and we need them. In particular, we need the land of Israel as much as it needs the Jewish people of the world. We must support Israel in whatever way we can!
The idea that something valuable can be counted is spiritual and practical, but 20th-century Polish author Shin Shalom wrote a poem that will give us pause to consider just how important trees are to us as people and Jews.
On Tu BiSh’vat
When spring comes
An angel descends Ledger in hand
And enters each bud, each twig,
Each tree, and all our garden flowers.
From town to town, from village to village
The angel makes a winged way searching the valleys,
inspecting the hills
Flying over the desert
And returns to heaven.
And when the ledger will be full of trees and blossoms and shrubs
When the desert is turned into a meadow and all our land a watered garden
The Messiah will appear.
May the birthday of trees usher in an era of peace for us, the household of Israel, and all people everywhere.