Chodesh Shevat: A message from Rav Mordechai Burg
A gutten Chodesh Shevat!
Every month is characterized by the Yomim Tovim that are contained within it. The Yom Tov of Tu B’Shvat is the day that reveals to us the essence of this holy month. It therefore behooves us to take a closer look at Tu B’Shvat in order to understand what our avodah is for this month.
Tu B’Shvat is the Rosh Hashanah for the trees. This has real halachik implications with regards to maasros, orlah and sheviis. For example, the fruit of a tree may not be eaten in its first three years (orlah). In the fourth year the fruits are neta ravai and therefore can only be eaten in Yerushalayim or be redeemed. In the fifth year the fruits are allowed to be eaten. How do we calculate the years of the tree? Tu B’Shvat.
Why is Tu B’Shvat the Rosh Hashanah for the trees? What is it about this particular date in time? The Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashana 1:2) explains that until Tu B’Shvat the trees survive on the water from the previous year. After Tu B’Shvat, the trees are nourished from the water of the new year. In other words, Tu B’Shvat is the in between time, neither here nor there. Not exactly winter but certainly before spring. So what is the lesson for us? What’s the value in being nowhere?
When we stand at the end of the past, looking ahead into the future, amazing opportunities appear before us. Often times we find ourselves ruminating about the past or anxious about the future. The present moment goes largely ignored and as a result we have no capacity for growth and change. Only in the present, having let go of the past and aware of the potential of the unfolding future does authentic movement occur. On Tu B’Shvat the old waters are gone and the new waters that will give rise to new growth are right around the corner. In this moment of Tu B’Shvat, we have the incredible opportunity to set our course. We are neither in the future nor in the past and therefore the present moment, with its infinite possibility, is available to us.
This then this is avodah of Shvat. To live in the present so that we can live with His presence. To quote Allen Johnson, “The past is history and the future is a mystery. This moment is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”
Wishing you all a blessed month,