G-d told the Jewish People to plant trees upon entering the Promised Land,
“And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees…” (Leviticus 19:23).
Why is it that the first thing the Bible recommends the Jewish People to do, as soon as they enter the Land of Israel, is to plant trees? Not build houses or vegetable fields?
“Because planting trees represents the pinnacle of settling the land. Trees have a long life and they symbolize the validity of holding onto the land, as opposed to simply building a house or growing vegetables. Planting trees is essential to our re-settling the land.” (Rabbi Shlomo Aviner from Bet El).
On Monday, January 21, 2019, Jews all over the world will celebrate the “birthday of the trees,” a holiday known as Tu B’shvat (the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat).
There are many mitzvot or commandments tied to the agricultural cycle, and so the 15th of Shvat was chosen as the “New Year” for all agricultural matters. This means that for religious purposes, fruit that blossomed before the 15th of Shvat was considered to be from the previous year, and so the 15th of Shvat is celebrated as Rosh Hashana for the trees. This day is significant for all Jews, not just farmers, as it says,
“Man is the tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20:19).
Man is compared to trees because through cultivating strong roots with faith and commitment to G-d, we produce the fruits of a meaningful life.
On Tu B’shvat, many people, of all ages, go out to plant trees in Israel. By doing this, we are reaffirming our commitment to the Land of Israel and following in the footsteps of our forefathers. Just as they planted trees and settled the land, we too, show our ownership of the land and plant the seeds for the future generations.
Trees are the eternal sign of the promise that G-d made to Abraham, that his children will live in this Promised Land and watch it flourish. In order to acquire the land as Abraham did, we must plant trees.
On this holiday, it is also customary to eat special fruits from the seven species of Israel mentioned in the Bible,
“A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8).
By eating the fruit grown on the trees of Israel, we show our deep love for the Holy Land. May this love and commitment towards Israel and its future, emanate throughout the entire year.
We wish our readers a happy Tu B’shvat and hope you can celebrate by enjoying some delicious, Israeli fruit.