T"U B'Shevat, the fifteenth of the Jewish month of Shevat, is the New Year of the Trees according to according to the ruling of Beit Hillel in the first Mishnah in Tractate "Rosh Hashanah" and as decided in Jewish Law. The practical implications concern certain commandments that are applicable only in the Land of Israel, one example being the prohibition of Orlah, fruit forbidden for the first three years of a tree. Also, because it is a "Rosh Hashanah," we do not recite the penitentional prayers ['Tachanun'] worldwide on that day.

In Chassidut, this day has been designated as a special day for introspection and self- searching. It is also customary for Chassidim [and Sephardim] to make a special feast that features fruit, especially those for which the Land of Israel is praised.

...the Torah compares man to a tree.

In the verse: "for is the tree of the field a man?" [Deut. 20:19] the Torah compares man to a tree. From this, comes the implication that T"U B'Shevat is like Rosh Hashanah, the day of judgment, an occasion for changes and self-searching. Let us now draw analogies between the tree and man and what we can derive from this.

In the Talmud (Yoma 38b) it is stated, "The L-rd saw that the righteous are few, so He planted some in each and every generation." This raises the question: What does it benefit us that they are planted in each generation and what difference would it make if the small number of righteous were planted in one generation or if G‑d spread them throughout all the generations?


One of the factors that cause man to develop is envy, i.e., the desire to emulate another. If a man were alone in the desert, he wouldn't develop. By being in society and seeing learned people, he wishes to be like them. This is also the reason that the Sages said that there is no generation that lacks Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, i.e., that every generation has righteous whose role it is to provide an example so that others will wish to emulate them.

From the desire to be like the righteous, the righteous of each generation multiply.

And this is like the grafting of trees, that in order to proliferate them, one takes branches from one tree and grafts them onto another and thus from one tree many trees are generated. From this, we can understand the saying of our sages above. Since there are so few righteous, G‑d planted them in every generation so that people in each generation would see, from their example, what a man can become and thus righteous would proliferate in each and every generation just as the graft of one tree becomes the source of many trees. And this is really the positive function of envy since, for as is known, every character trait has good and bad aspects. For example, "the envy of authors will multiply wisdom." From the desire to be like the righteous, the righteous of each generation multiply.

Planting Seeds

During sowing, man sees no result. To the contrary, the seed rots and the man worries whether anything at all will grow and, if it does, whether the tree will bring forth good fruit or not. Likewise, every project a man begins requires him first to invest in his endeavor even though he sees no immediate result. He only believes and prays to the L-rd that his toil won't be in vain. And even more than this, he imagines that from his work even detriment might be derived rather than benefit.

We can now understand why the sages referred to the tractates of agricultural laws as "faith," since the farmer makes all his efforts - plows and fertilizes, sows and waters - and then, as far as the fruits of his labors are concerned, can only pray to the L-rd. And so the Hebrew word for seed -, "Zera" - is Notrikon (code) for "Ze - Ra" ("this is bad") since even from first glance it appears as though the seed only rots and nothing will come of it. In the same way, a person must believe in the L-rd and that in the final analysis, all will come out well even if at first glance this doesn't seem likely because our sight is limited and we are unable to see what is to come.


Another thing that we discern is that each tree needs an environment conducive to its development, i.e., a place hospitable to the seed. Later, it must still have an environment, i.e., each tree and each plant needs for its development fertilizers, water, organic materials sun or shade, etc., for the seed to develop and, still later, for the tree to develop and give quality fruit. Also, while the tree is still a seedling, it requires a supporting stake to assure that it will grow vertically. It is impossible to correct a deviation from the vertical once the tree has matured.

...with a youth, it is easy to raise him in a straight fashion...

Likewise with a youth, it is easy to raise him in a straight fashion, something that is not possible when he is old and bent and it becomes hard to straighten him out. He must have a positive environment, i.e., a good teacher, good company and books of wisdom, in order to develop in his being just as the seed and the tree develop thanks to the external environment in which they are planted. If the external environment in which it was sown were not appropriate to the seed, the tree wouldn't develop or bring forth quality fruit. If a man finds himself in a bad environment, he will not be able to develop in a positive way, regardless of how good his essence.

Just as the tree is given support early in its growth so also man is given education in his youth, then even in his latter years he will not abandon it. The roots of the tree must be strong allowing it t to attain great heights and resist strong winds that would otherwise uproot it.. So, too, a Jew who draws from the roots of his ancestors’ legacy is rooted in Torah and in the culture that our wise men taught us (even if bad winds and fallacious and foreign cultures should come) will have the strength to contend with them because he draws strength from his roots and continues to guard his culture and national affiliation.


Also, just as there are fruitless trees, so there are dry, empty people. As it is known, fruitless trees make a lot of noise when they burn and thus are like empty people who occupy themselves with idle chatter. This is not true for those who are like fruit trees that have moisture. They do not occupy themselves with idle chatter but rather with words of wisdom only and their words bring only good results like fruit.

In a fruit tree, the leaves come out before the fruit. The inner meaning of the leaf is that it provides cover. The leaf conceals, as it is said of Adam, "and they sewed fig leaves." The fruits are the revealed, good results. Thus the first condition of revealing the sense of the Mitzvot and of the Torah is faith, just as the children of Israel said before receiving the Torah, "Na'aseh Ve Nishma" (We will do and we will hear). This means first acting out of faith, without understanding, and, only afterwards, the "Nishma," - the hearing in the ear that leads to understanding, as it is said of Moses: "Moses hid his face because he feared to look."

Moses was rewarded for hiding his face...

Our tradition says that Moses was rewarded for hiding his face, i.e., for his faith in G‑d. That he "hid his face" means that he didn't know the ways of the L-rd but only believed. Faith applies when one does not see. When one sees and understands, faith is unnecessary. Moses's reward was that he had the merit to see and understand the ways of the L-rd's supervision.

In fruit, the kelipa (peel, husk) appears before the fruit, i.e., in the process of growth, first the kelipa develops and then the fruit. This is a great principle not only in nature but in all things. Of one who is born it is written, "the inclination of the heart of a person is evil from his youth." Only after he receives the obligation of Mitzvot, does he receive the good inclination. It is so because "inclination" means "desires" and, from the beginning, a person must enlarge his aspirations and desires. Only afterwards, when he matures, can he understand that the main work of man is not only to benefit himself but to channel those same aspirations into positive directions. Accordingly, the evil inclination precedes the good in order to prepare the tools so that the good inclination will later be able to direct those same tools in a positive direction. Thus the kelipa precedes the fruit whereby "kelipa" hints at tools and preparation so that the fruit will have where to enter, i.e., the good results.

There are fruits that are eaten with the kelipa and there are fruits that are eaten only after discarding the kelipa. Likewise, from a superficial and external perspective, the kelipa seems superfluous and also has a bitter taste but when we remove the external kelipa and reveal the true fruit, we understand that the kelipa is only for protecting the fruit. Accordingly, there are negative spiritual aspects and situations that are the cause of good that comes after. If it weren't for these aspects, the good wouldn't come - as in the kelipa that protects the fruit. And there are also aspects that are not good but that, in the end, themselves, are transformed into good, like the kelipa that is eaten with the fruit.

Persons who eat fruit in holiness ...elevate these holy sparks back to their place of origin.

After the sin of Adam, the worlds deteriorated and sparks of holiness fell into the vegetative realm; it is these sparks that give the good taste to fruit. Persons who eat fruit in holiness (i.e., when they bless their food) elevate these holy sparks back to their place of origin. The sin of Adam caused the holy sparks to fall into the vegetative world and thus it is a Mitzvah to make a blessing over the fruit in order to redeem them, but at the same time it was forbidden for him to eat meat since animals did not require rectification. This was no longer the case for the generation of the Flood, concerning which it is written that all land-roaming flesh was destroyed. That is to say, through the sin of the generation of the flood animals also were compromised, and thus it became permitted to man from that time onward to eat meat, in order to free the sparks of holiness that fell into the animals.

Four Worlds

Likewise, pursuant to the sin of Adam, came a descent of the worlds. It is known that there are four worlds which are: Atzilut (Emanation), Beriya (Creation), Yetzira (Formation) and Asiya (Action). The worlds of Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya fell from their station and only the world of Atzilut remained in holiness. The three others fell to a lower station, each in its respective place.

The different types of fruit symbolize these four worlds.

The different types of fruit symbolize these four worlds. The fruits that correspond to the world of Atzilut are those fruits that can be eaten as is, without any peels or seeds that must be removed, since it is a world that does not require emendation. These are fruits such as figs, grapes, guava and persimmon.

Olam HaBeriya (the world of Creation) is called "mostly good and a minimum of evil" (that is externally imperceptible). Thus fruits that correspond to it such as olives, peaches, dates, plums and apples are eaten with their skins. The seeds that correspond to the minimum of evil (that is imperceptible) are discarded.

In the world of Yetzira (Formation), evil is more prominent. The fruits that symbolize it, such as oranges, are eaten with the peel, but their pits are discarded. There is another condition in the world of Yetzira that comes only with the final emendation whereby also the evil will be corrected. A foretaste is that from the peels of Etrogs, oranges and citrus in general, candy and various kinds of jams are prepared. Even the kelipot will be transformed into good!

The world of Asiya (the world of Action), that is covered with an overlay of evil but has good within waiting to be revealed, is symbolized by fruits such as pomegranate, walnuts, almonds, etc., of which the kelipa is discarded and only the inside is eaten.

[Translation by Avraham Sutton.]