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Tu B’Shvat

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 8/2/2020

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Tu B’Shvat

We are compared to a tree as it states כי האדם עץ השדה, man is a tree of the field.[1] In middle of winter, the trees look empty and dead. We all know that it is now that new life starts to pump through the trees as they begin to rejuvenate. The same applies to us. My Avodas Hashem may have been going through a difficult “winter” lately but this period has potential for rejuvenation. ראש השנה לאילנות, טו בשבט, brings renewal to the tree.[2] This also refers to the עץ חיים,[3] tree of life—Torah. In fact, The Avnei Nazer was able to tell a difference in his Torah before and after טו בשבט.


We connect to a Yom Tov 30 days before it as the Sages instruct us that 30 days before a Yom Tov, we should learn (שואלין ודורשין) the Halachos of that Yom Tov.[4] A month before Purim is טו בשבט. Purim is a form of Kabbalas Hatorah as the Gemara says that is when we received the Torah again.[5] In this way we should prepare ourselves as טו בשבט is a time of rejuvenation in Torah. It is specifically in שבט that we hope to merit שמרם ברכם טהרם, guard them, bless them, purify them.[6]


Rashi[7] comments on ועץ השדה יתן פריו, the tree of the field will give its fruit, that it refers to the אילני סרק, trees that do not bear fruit which in the future will produce fruit. This is also a hint to humans who are compared to a tree, that those Jews who are אילני סרק will bear fruit—Chidushai Torah—in the future. R’ Moshe Wolfson points out that ועץ השדה יתן פריו has a numerical value of 1,236, the same equivalent as חמשה עשר בשבט. Astounding!


The Divrei Chaim would make a big Seuda on טו בשבט. He explained that from Rosh Chodesh Shvat until Shavuos there is a Yom Tov at least every 15 days. They are Rosh Chodesh Shvat, Tu B’Shvat, Rosh Chodesh Adar, Purim, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Pesach, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Pesach Sheini, Rosh Chodesh Sivan and Shavuos.[8] Is it any wonder that the letters of שבט form the phrase שנתבשר בשורות טובות, be informed of good news?![9] The month of שבט should be one of שלום, טובה, ברכה, peace, goodness and blessing.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Devarim 20:19.

[2] Rosh Hashana 2a. The Mazel of Shvat is the דלי. This hints to water as in יזל מים מדליו, water shall flow from his wells (Bamidbar 24:7). With this we can find a hint to טו בשבט in (Tehillim 1:3) והיה כעץ שתול על פלגי מים אשר פריו יתן בעתו (simple meaning: He shall be like a tree deeply rooted alongside brooks of water, that yields fruit in its season) as מים refers to Shvat. פלגי is a reference to the 15th day as פלג means half (as in פלגא דגופא, a half of a body) referring to halfway through the month—the 15th day. So, on the 15th of Shvat it is the time of the tree (עץ שתול) which yields fruit (אשר פריו יתן בעתו) (See Ateres Yehoshua, טו בשבט, s.v. בפסוק). On this day the Mishna Brura (131:31) writes להרבות אז במיני פרות של אילנות, we increase in the types of fruits from trees. Another hint to טו בשבט is found in שבטי י-ה עדות לישראל להדות לשם ה' (Tehillim 122:4). שבטי alludes to שבט. י-ה has a Gematria of 15, thereby making reference to the 15th of Shvat. On this day we thank Hashem by saying a Bracha on fruits (See Toldos Yitzchok).

[3] Mishlei 3:18. Indeed, it was in the month of Shvat that Moshe began to explain the Torah to us (Devarim 1:3,5).

[4] See Pesachim 6a. A hint to this is found in the letter ל, which has a numerical value of 30. This alludes to that 30 days prior he should learn about the Yom Tov, as ל spelled out is למד, a reference to לימוד, learning. 

[5] Shabbos 88a.

[6] In אנא בכח.

[7] Vayikra 26:4.

[8] Siach Tzadikim, p. 30. 

[9] See the fourth יהי רצון after Krias Hatorah before Ashrei.

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