Over the last few years our world has responded to Covid by retreating to activities close to home. One of the side benefits of that sheltering has been increased participation in and appreciation of nature (Teva). The experience and pleasure of taking walks in parks and nature reserves in our local areas has stayed with us, even as travel and tourism have opened up again. Perhaps for this reason, the awareness of Tu B’Shvat has been heightened in our day.
Each year on the 15th day of Shvat we have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah in the Torah (Vayikra 19:23) “When you come to the Land, you shall plant fruit trees.” Tu B’Shvat starts off a three-month consecutive holiday series – the others being Purim & Pesach – that fall on the 15th day of the month, which is the full term of the lunar cycle.
Celebrating Pleasure: a Mystical Interpretation
The oldest reference to Tu B’Shvat is found in the Talmud and called “the new year of the trees” where the date is significant due to the legal implications of taking a 10% tithe from fruits. The holiday is not mentioned in Tanach.
The Kabbalists, in revealing the deeper meaning of Tu B’Shvat, taught that it was an ‘opportune time for rectifying the sins of Adam & Chava’. Through the simple act of eating fruits of Eretz Yisrael in a certain order at a Tu B’Shvat seder, we are all able to ‘contribute to this tikkun, or cosmic repair.’
So exactly how are we fixing these sins?
Adam & Chava were placed into Gan Eden to ‘work it and to guard it’. Hashem created the world so that we could experience goodness and pleasure. When we eat and enjoy the fruits of God’s world, we are actually serving Him and connecting with Him. They are His gifts to us, and by accepting and enjoying them we are also serving Him. Pleasure and enjoyment is at the core of Jewish life, by obeying Hashem’s command to enjoy the fruits of this world.
Adam & Chava were obligated to enjoy the lush fruits with the exception of only one forbidden fruit, and guess what? They went for that one! Instead of seeing the fruits as pleasurable, as God’s gifts, they wished to partake of them against His will and had confusion in their orientation.
The art of receiving
As we said, connecting to Hashem is the experience of real spiritual pleasure, and we enjoy physical pleasure through receiving His gifts, transformed into selflessly serving Him. The wonderful taste of the fruits was not the true pleasure, but rather they were gifts from God; serving and connecting to Him was the ultimate pleasure.
There is a basic difference between having pleasure and receiving it. We may pursue a certain pleasure for its own sake but receiving it has to do with our connecting to our soul’s desire. By receiving God’s gift of delicious fruits we acknowledge His presence and the physical world becomes blessed. New sap rises up in the trees during this season and we have the opportunity to utilize our potential as human beings, with the inspiration that the trees provide for us.
Images of mothers
Those of us who are mothers can understand that our children, and indirectly our grandchildren, can be seen as the fruits of our bodies. When enjoying these fruits of our bodies we can feel gratitude to Hashem. Enjoying with our family, our “bodily fruits” helps us to also realize other blessing that exist. When we see God’s presence in the world around us, and specifically in other humans, we draw abundance from ‘the milk of the earth’ – the sap that fills the branches of our bodily trees.
Our bodily perceptions
The Maharal likens our speech to the fruit of a tree. As we can tell the type of tree from the fruit it bears, one can tell the nature of a person from his type of speech. Perhaps the dried fruit that is eaten as part of Tu B’Shvat celebrations can be a metaphor for a woman’s body when she no longer is the age of bearing children…all of these stages in life should be embraced and appreciated! By engaging with the Tu B’Shvat fruits, especially those from Eretz Yisrael, we forge a stronger emotional relationship to the Land and a renewal of our source of blessing.
Through this natural connection we may better understand and have renewed respect for our body’s care; maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body image especially as we age. Those of us associated with the Eden Center tend to have both health and body consciousness, and the awareness to celebrate and nurture our fruits as women, with our birthing and sexuality being expressed in the best possible way.
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