Tu B’Shvat: Learning How to Blossom to Reach our Potential

The fifteenth day of the Jewish month Shvat falls out near the center of winter. Agriculturally it represents the approximate day we expect the earliest of the fruit trees, the almond, to blossom. Hydrologically, the Talmud explains that trees blossoming up to the fifteenth of Shvat do so by the power of the rains of the previous year, while those blossoming after that date do so by the power of the current year’s rain. Thus, the fruit of a tree are halachically considered to be of the current year only if the tree blossoms after the fifteenth of Shvat. This classification has practical impact on the laws of Trumot and Maasrot, Orloh, and Shmitah.

Human beings, unlike trees, have no physical symptoms to mark the passing of a solar year. We exist with equal success on the equator, where the seasons do not exist, as in the northern and southern hemispheres. We sleep on a daily basis, and we don’t hibernate through the winter nor do we bloom at any annual point.

Our religious celebration of the fifteenth of Shvat, or Tu B’Shvat as we commonly call it, is an attempt to be at one with the trees we inhabit the world with. We are aroused by their renewal, and realize that warmer weather and Spring are not far away, even though we are still in the depths of winter. We too must try to bear fruit, and find how to blossom and bloom despite our repetitive daily activities. We take advantage of this natural phenomenon to launch ourselves forward in an annual effort to accomplish, to express outwardly what we have within us to bring forth.