The Beginning Is Always the Toughest

The Mishna teaches us that there are four heads of the year, one of which is the 15th Day of the month of Shevat, Tu B’Shvat. This is the new year of the trees. We celebrate by planting trees here and in Israel and eating fruit that has the unique quality of growing on trees.

The month of Shevat is in the middle of the winter in the land of Israel, the time when it often snows and a seasonal tree would have no sign of life at all. It is therefore even stranger that we celebrate trees when the trees are not showing any signs of life, surely springtime or summer would make more sense? Our sages explain that this is exactly the point. At the start of winter, a seasonal tree begins to wither away, by the middle of winter it is completely in hibernation, but on Tu B’Shvat an amazing thing occurs: the renewal process begins, spring blossoms may not be visible for a few months to come but the seeds of renewal have been planted. The tree ends its cycle of dying and begins very slowly, to move towards life beneath the surface. The climax of the tree being the most “dead” is also the exact moment when it begins to renew.

This is a strong message for us, especially during this COVID era. It is often the process of getting something started that is the hardest, it feels like starting our academic year in such circumstances is like the dead of winter and we just cannot get going. Tu B’Shvat teaches us that if we can begin the process, even though results may not show for months to come, this is a vital first step. Tapping into this energy will help us achieve our greatest goals and aspirations, each at the appropriate time.

This year at Herzlia we obviously cannot have our regular tree planting ceremonies for all the pupils, but the themes of trees and Tu B’Shvat are being integrated into every aspect of our JLL curriculum at an age appropriate level. It is a great opportunity for our pupils to connect with their environment and the abundant blessings and lessons we receive from trees!

Chag Tu B’Shvat Sameach.

Rabbi Cannon
Head of Jewish Life & Learning: UHS