Tu Bishvat- The (almost forgotten) festival of the trees

By Sara Eisenman and Eve Levy

There is so much to learn from this holiday, so many timeless lessons to glean and apply to our lives. Tu Bishvat is considered to be an auspicious day for growth!

Advice from a Tree by Ilan Shamir
• Dear friend
• Stand tall and proud
• Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
• Reflect the light of your true nature
• Think long term
• Go out on a limb
• Remember your place among all living beings
• Embrace with joy the changing seasons
• For each yields its own abundance
• The energy and birth of spring
• The growth and contentment of summer
• The wisdom to let go of leaves in the fall
• The rest and quiet renewal of winter
• Feel the wind and the sun
• And delight in their presence
• Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
• And the mystery of the stars at night
• Seek nourishment from the good things in life
• Simple pleasures Earth, fresh air, light
• Be content with your natural beauty
• Drink plenty of water
• Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
• Be flexible
• Remember your roots
• Enjoy the view!

The tree is a powerful metaphor for human beings and growth. At this point of the year the sap is supposedly rising within the trees. Change is eminent, as we wait with anticipation for what will transpire before our very eyes. We wait for spring to burst forth.
Things should be rumbling within us as well. Dreams, aspirations, hopes, and goals… what have you been pushing off doing or putting on hold for a long time?

There is no time like this month to make amazing things happen. The energy is prime for change. Time to go out on a limb…

Rabbi Shraga Simmons says a tree needs four elements to allow it to grow: soil, water, air, and fire.

The soil provides nutrients and space for the roots to grow. A tree without strong roots will not survive. The winds will uproots it easily. So to with mankind, if we are not grounded in morals, and if our home is not steeped in connection and tradition our very survival is in danger.

Water is the element often compared to the Torah. Just like we humans cannot survive without water, so too a Jew cannot survive without Torah. Torah gives vitality to a Jew just like water gives life to a tree.

Air is the element that we cannot see our touch. But it is crucial for our existence. It is our soul, our Neshama , same root as the word for breath, Neshima. Our spiritual life force comes metaphorically by way of air and respiration.

Fire represented by sunlight is needed to complete the process of photosynthesis. We too need fire in the way of warmth- family, community, friends. Humans crave and thirst for those real connections! We also need the fire within us, passion for a worthy cause. We each have our special mitzvah or ‘thing’ that gets us excited and lights us up. If we don’t have one we need to toil and develop one. We need to use our creative abilities to do something amazing in our lifetime.

Time to bring it all forward.
You have everything you need: the roots, the water, the air, the fire. You have the background, the Torah, the soul, and the warmth and passion