Our hearts are joyous on the bounty of our beautiful land
Tu Bishvat has arrived, The festival of trees..
Such goes the common children’s song
However, with more mature perspective we learn that Tu Bishvat is a Rosh Hashanah, a new year. And the day which is halachically significant as it marks the end of the Orlah and the 4th year, as well as the borderline for separating chadash and yashan for the ma’aser, and for deciding the ma’aser between ma’aser sheni and ma’aser ani.
Hence it is obvious that there is to this day various important halachic ramifications, but where is the festival aspect of it?
In truth, there is here a festival! Tu Bishvat is the festival of the land of Israel. The land of Israel that is settled by its children and its builders, who cause the vast dry land to blossom and who merit to fulfil the special mitsvot which are unique to it.
The fulfilment of the mitsvot which are unique to the land of Israel is not only a technical thing. As Rav Kook states "Just as the mitsvot came with us to and throughout the exile and acted as the ‘heart’ of our lives and our spiritual seal in accordance with our internal greatness. So too the mitsvot which are unique to the land of Israel will bring about the spiritual elevation of our lives as they were set to do. (Orot Ha’tchia 5) The fulfilment of the mitsvot which are unique to the land of Israel in their most complete way has the ability to bring the nation living upon it (Israel) to a type of elevated living. A life full of the beauty and holiness that is composent with a "nation of priests" and a "holy people".
"And even when we have not yet merited to entire fulfilment of these unique mitsvot we can at least envision ‘before us is the Sanctuary in all its glory, and behold we are carrying with joy the fruits of our beloved land, and behold we are coming with a spirit of true freedom and safety and behold! The kohanim, the servants of Hashem, whose hearts are filled with love and kindness, whose faces are painted with divine providence...And we remember...the power and the inspiration that enveloped us at the time of the aliyah l’regel (pilgrimage to the Bet Hamikdash) upon seeing the faces of the kohanim. How beautiful they were to us... How lucky are we that our mouths are filled with blessings of our special land, the land of our forefathers. Happy are we to give to them (the kohanim) their trumah (the 2% portion of crops).
...And the Levites, that through their song radiate with purity and beauty, as we feel the spiritual bliss of our ever so happy hearts whilst giving to them ma’aser (the 10% portion of crops).. It will be soon that we been seen again on the Mountain of Hashem..."(ibid)
Tu Bishvat, as the Rosh Hashanah for the unque mitsvot of the land of Israel , is subsequently also the special expression of these mitsvot who contain within them the connection of land and nation and body and soul alike. This connection is essentially the banner of our nation; whose purpose it is to connect heavens to earth in complete harmany - a mission which can only be achieved through the jewish nation living on its land, Israel in all its borders. The stores in the market are telling of the redemption
And if it has been so in the previous generations that we have merited to enjoy the festival of Tu Bishvat, then how much more so are we able to do so now. For we have merited something which none of the previous generations merited... to see the realisation of the prophecy of Ezekiel (chap 31) "And you, the mountains (of the land of) Israel, your branches will give, and your fruits granted to the nation of Israel, for near is their coming". We are living in a period which signals according to Rabbi Abba in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 92A) the final redemption..."And Rabbi Abba said, there is not a more open revelation than this". I.e. when the land of Israel will give of its fruits kindly, this will be a sure sign of the redemption (see Rashi ibid). And we are in this phase of worldly redemption.
Yet in truth, there is room to ask how are the branches and fruits signs of the redemption? Are there no other more spiritual signs instead? Why have the stores in the market who are selling the fruits of the kibbutz and the moshav been chosen to disclose news of the redemption? Would not an increased amount of shiurim and torah learning be more appropriate?
Indeed, Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook of blessed memory (Orot Erets Yisrael A) taught "The land of Israel is not an external possession to the nation..." The land and the people of Israel are connected together in an internal spiritual bond. The more that the connection between the Jew and his land is strengthened, the more that the land is planted and built up (especially through allowing for the performance of the mitsvot that are unique to the land) so too in that measure will the redemption will be brought forward and a dew of the future light will sensate the entire nation. A Day of Renewal
In these times, after the settler movement have been dealt blows, ( and we daven before Hashem that another rupture should not be seen in our land) Tu Bishvat need be a day of renewal and advancement. Not to be embarrassed or intimated by those who try belittle the development and working of the land...Rather on the contrary we should add strength and desire to build and plant despite all the hurdles. "And the acts of the forefathers are signs to the children". We can learn from Yitschak Avinu in this regard, as Rabbi Yosef Rublin of blessed memory (Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5724, 1974, author of ‘kol tor’ and student of the Vilna Gaon) explained to the people of ‘Mea Shearim’ at their watershed beginning in Jerusalem: Yitschak Avinu did not give up despite the obstacles. He dug a well and was disappointed by the people of Riv and Midian who filled it. Dug another well and was again disappointed by the people of Shatna. And didn’t give up until he dug a well that remained, and "he called it ‘Rechovot’".
Yitschak Avinu sowed the land during a year of drought and famine, as the Midrash and Rashi state on the verse "And Yitschak sowed and found (fruits) in that year"- He grew fruits even though it was a year where the land was arid and the time was difficult. What a fabulous miracle that the entire land is barren and the small portion of land that Yitschak sowed was bountiful. So bountiful in fact that Yitschak called that portion "Mea (one hundred) Shearim", intending that the amount of produce was a hundred times more than the usual produce.
In addition, it seems obvious from the actions and words of Yitschak that his purpose was to broaden the settlement. For following his success in managing to keep the well intact and in growing a plentiful crop he said "because now Hashem has multiplied us and our fruits on the land" (see Doresh L’Tzion, Midrasg Shlomo on Parshat Toldot).
How appropriate is it then, in our times, to adopt the incredible words of Rabbi Rivlin (Midrash Shlomo ibid near the end): "In connection with this, it is correct to add that the Elders of Jerusalem knew the fact that the Rabbis of Jerusalem joined in the planting of trees in the initial neighbourhoods of Jerusalem. And there are many interesting details of this, as the communities sang the verses "And Yitschak sowed..." and the song "the revealed redemption" as well as "And you ,the mountains (of the land of) Israel, your branches will give ..."
Also us, the people of Kfar Darom (of Gush Katif; may it be rebuilt soon)... we saw in our misfortune our yishuv destroyed twice. May we merit with the help of Hashem to see it’s rebuilding, and on this third time "Hashem will multiple us and our fruits in the land" "For eye to eye they will see in the returning of Hashem to Zion", may it be speedily in our days. Amen.