Tu BeShvat 5781
Especially today - Especially now
When I think of Tu BeShvat as a child, it was planting seedlings of eucalyptus, pine or Nerium in a grove in our kibbutz or our school. But if you ask children today or if we could have skipped the pages of history and asked our grandparents or ancestors we had gotten all different answers.
Tu B'Shvat is not mentioned in the Bible, it was first mentioned in the Mishnah when it was necessary to manage a community and give regular dates for specific tasks, it is mentioned as one out of four Rosh Hashanah, Rosh Hashana LaIlanot - the trees new year. Chazal saw it as a tool to help the Jewish residents of Israel to divide the year into tax periods. From the very beginning, it was a milestone in the lives of the agricultural workers in the Land of Israel, but it was not necessarily celebrated as a holiday, but more as a day for distribution of tithes (Measer) and donations.
In the 16th century, when the Ottomans ruled the Land of Israel, the Mekubalim of Safed out of longing for the past and anticipation for the future began to develop customs in memory of the fruits, the Tnuva of the Land of Israel. In memory of days that were but no more, they developed a Tu Bishvat Seder whose customs include eating fruit.
About a century later the ceremony would enter as one of the holiday corrections and begin its journey around the world, into the Galut (exile). In the galut the holiday that so far has been celebrated by the residents of the land of Israel, now it was celebrated for the sake of remembrance and strengthening the connection to Israel, as a kind of utopian dream that will be fulfilled in the Holy Land, a common dream that can strengthen and unite the various communities in the galut. In order to unite and strengthen the community, in Kurdistan, Europe and Izmir there were customs related to the fruits of the Land of Israel, eating and praying together, the fruits began to be dried fruits, because only in that way can they be brought from Israel. In Morocco synagogues were lightened with candles, in Syria the holiday connected with the Ten Commandments and in Thessaloniki plays and songs had been held for the members of the community.
The holiday as I remember it as a child actually only officially appeared in 1890, when the teacher and educator Ze'ev Yavetz took his class to plant trees in honor of Tu B'Shvat:
"For the sake of liking the planters, the land planted by God for our fathers to be satisfied of their goodness and relish in beauty, To the school to make Yom Tov the day that was intended in ancient times in Israel for Rosh Hashanah for trees " Ze'ev Yavetz 1980
Throughout that period the need for practical and Zionist action in Israel intensified and so the Zionist movement and the education system of those years embrace the holiday and adapted his customs to these needs; developing Israel, tying and strengthening the roots with in the land of Israel. Fulfilling the dream - Hagshama!
In recent years as the awareness and importance of preserving the environment and the earth for our benefit and future generations rises, as in the Midrash of Honi HaMe'agel and the Carob tree, we too are required today to plan for future generations and again according to community needs the nature of the holiday changes and takes on a more ecological and Tikun Olam character.
"This carob, how many years do you have to wait for it to load fruit? Told him: up to seventy years he will not load for the first time. Honi told him: will you live for another seventy years?... ... as my fathers planted before me, so I plant for my sons" The Babylonian Talmud (Ta'anit, page 23a)
We can learn a lot from this holiday, see how over the years the heads of the Jewish communities, educators, Zionist and great leaders adapted it`s customs to the needs of their communities.
Especially today - Especially now we, as a significant part of the youth movement, leaders, educators, society and residents of this planet, we are bound to adapt to the change, when everything is changing so fast, when we have to deal with changes, crises, global epidemics!
It is our responsibility to take this opportunity and adapt ourselves, our activities, our actions to the needs of the communities in which we live and those we lead.
Let's learn from Tu Bishvat, let's learn from our ancestors and together we will lead our future to a better place.
Chag HaIlanot Sameach
Ofri Ben-Zvi – Sheliach Habonim Dror Olami Holland
Tu Bishvat 5781