Tu Bishvat - the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat - celebrates "the New Year of the Trees", is the renewal of the natural cycle in the Land of Israel, represented by the blossoming of the almonds. This is a time of great joy in Medinat Israel, Israeli children and young people are massively turning to plant trees throughout the Land of Israel - the most forested country in the world, with a rate of afforestation much higher than the consumption of local wood. There is a national ethos linked to the renaissance of the country's nature; the blossoming and development of its green areas. It is part of modern Zionism - the same Zionism that established, with great efforts and hard work, the little Great Country that is today the pride of the Jews of the whole world, and that brought back the national dimension to a people that seemed confined to a forced demise.
When Zionism emphatically promoted the afforestation of the Promised Land, it did not introduce a new idea. Judaism appreciates the natural life of the Land of Israel, starting with the Torah itself - which teaches that on entering the Land of Israel the Jewish people should plant trees.
Perhaps the most extraordinary expression that defines the love relationship between the people of Israel and their Promised Land lies in the forestation that is demanded of them - in Avot deRabbi Nathan words:
"Rabbi Yochanan ben Zacai used to say: If you have the shoot of a tree in your hands and it is announced to you, 'Behold, the Messiah comes', plant the shoot first and then go and welcome him."
What could be more important than the arrival of the Messiah? Why are we first ordered to complete the planting of a tree in the Land of Israel before welcoming the Redeemer of Humanity?
The Messiah and his arrival belong to the Celestial Spheres; it belongs to the end of Human History. We, the members of the Jewish people, are part of History - in uppercase and lowercase, both National History and our own personal history.If God decides to end Human History, He will doso. Meanwhile, we must continue to make History and history, implementing those commitments that define a good part of who we are. Avot deRabi Nathan teaches us that:
• there is a terrestrial and heavenly bond between the People of Israel and their Land;
• that link is sustained through a concrete, real relationship in which we bring life to our forests and respect the green life of Eretz Israel;
• before engaging in divine decisions,we must take on our earthly responsibilities.
Tu Bishvat honors the love of the Jewish people for their Land, for its nature, for the trees that are reborn each year to the life of its flowers and its fruits, for the reborn national life. May we plant in our souls in this Tu B'Shvat the renewed commitment to the Land and the State of Israel, creating a present full of the most varied, rich, challenging and inspiring fruits for our generation and all future of our people.
Tu Bishvat Sameach!
RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union
The name Tu BiShvat is a Hebrew Date: the 15th Day of the month of Shvat. In Hebrew alphabet numerology, the letter Yud stands for 10, so for example 11 is Yud-Aleph; 15, however, is not Yud-Heh because that would form one of the names of HaShem. Thus 15 is formed from Tet (9) & Vav (6).
"When you enter the land [of Israel] and plant a fruit tree ..." - Vaikrah (Leviticus) XIX, 23.
Avot de-Rabbi Nathan 31. This book is "the Gemarah" of Pirkei Avot, and belongs to the period of the Geonim (700-900 c.e.).