Last week I was privileged to present a cooking demonstration to the lovely ladies of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion in Baltimore. I was so happy to talk about Tu B'Shvat and demo a great recipe for the holiday as I don't think there is any other chag so clearly linked with the kedusha of the Land of Israel.
To make this presentation at BJSZ was so appropriate as their congregation is well known as chovivi Tzion, lovers of Zion. In fact, the Eastern wall in their sanctuary is tiled with Jerusalem Stone so that worshippers may always have in mind our true home.
For this event I made Cooking for The King's Sheva Minim Talbouleh Salad because it is my favorite go-to dish for Tu B'Shevat. They loved it! Not only is it beautiful, tasty, healthy and easy, but it has all seven of the species of produce for which the Land of Israel is praised in the Torah: "wheat and barley, grape, fig and pomegranate; a land of oil-rich olive and sweet date." (Devarim 8:7-8).
Each of these products of Eretz Yisrael share attributes that are intrinsic to the distinctive character of Eretz Yisrael AND to every Jew (read about that here).
From Roots to Fruits
Later in Devarim, the Torah compares man to a fruit tree. "Man is like the tree of the field" (Devarim 20:19). The Baal Shem Tov explains:
The roots of the tree are like our hidden spiritual life. The deeper our roots reach for nourishment, the healthier the tree and the better we are able to withstand mighty winds and plagues that challenge us.
The trunk and branches are our guf, our body, the physical edifice of our spiritual life, the part that appears to do all the work. On Tu b'Shvat, the sap, the avoda, holy work that we have poured into our lives since Rosh Hashana until the last day of Chanukah, begins to rise from the roots through the trunk and to the branches where the leaves, buds and fruit will appear.
The fruit is the purpose of the tree, and of our lives. Along the way it gives shade and beauty, just as we enjoy the gifts of this world. However man is designed to do mitzvos, that is our fruit.
The Secret to Eternity
And there is more. Unlike other fruit bearing bushes and plants, tree-fruits hold a deep secret. Within the fruit are the seeds, the secret to eternity. The seeds gives the deepest meaning to our lives in this world. With every mitzva, we produce a fruit with seeds that, in time, will inspire and teach another generation the sweet pleasure of serving our Creator.
Now that is quite a wonderful thought to illuminate your Tu b'Shvat. Why not make a special meal to mark the day? It is a time honored custom to plant trees symbolizing our effort in raising another generation of Torah Jewry and to enjoy eating a wide variety of the fruits of our avoda, the mitzvos of our service.