Monday, February 9, 2009

Tu B’Shvat Blossoms with R. Tzaddok

R. Tzaddok devotes an entire section of the Pri Tzaddik on Sefer Shemot to Tu B’Shvat. I would like to highlight two ideas that he discusses there. (Note - I recommend reading the entire first piece in this section, but it is not for the faint of heart.) The first idea discusses specifically the significance of fruit and the second idea discusses the general concept of eating.

HaShem created human beings in Bereshit Perek 2,.and they were commanded to eat as part of their utopian life. Furthermore, their food was specifically the fruit from trees.

2:16 - HaShem commanded Adam to eat from all of the trees of Gan Eden.

Even before the sin of the Etz HaDa’at, Adam and Chava were intended to eat food for physical sustenance. The purpose of eating was to enable them do HaShem’s mitzvot in this world.

The ultimate Kabbalistic goal of doing mitzvot, is to harmonize and unite all of the Olamot (worlds). When the Olamot are harmonized then the direct positive influence of HaShem can be experienced in our world. Unfortunately, the sin of the Etz HaDa’at permanently crippled this harmony. (Today one of our goals is to try and repair the damage of the sin of the Etz HaDa’at by doing mitzvot - to be explained in depth at another time.)

R. Tzaddok continues and explains that when people (he actually says it is for the Tzaddik, but aren’t we all really tzaddikim? Or at least we can try to be,) begin to do teshuvah in order to improve themselves, they should first master their physical desires. They begin by doing teshuvah on their eating habits.

(A quick aside about the teshuvah of eating. Rav Kook discusses in Orot HaTeshuvah Perek 1 that the first stage of doing teshuvah is physical teshuvah. You should be in good health, and that includes good eating habits, before you focus on improving other aspects of your life. Rambam includes the halakhot of proper eating in Hilkhot Deot, which is in the first section of the Mishneh Torah. These are two good examples that physical good health, including eating habits, is a prerequisite for doing teshuvah and doing Torah and Mitzvot.)

This type of teshuvah is not only for individuals, but it is also one of the hidden messages of Tu B’Shvat. Shvat is the beginning of a teshuvah cycle in the Jewish calendar. We begin to fix our eating habits in Shvat to prepare for the teshuvah of Nisan.

In Shvat, you improve your eating habits. In Adar, you are now ready to celebrate the physical redemption of Purim. And finally in Nisan, you are ready to begin the full redemption at Pesach. (At Purim Haman sought to physically destroy the Jewish people, and we physically (Purim seudah) commemorate his downfall. According to R. Yehoshua in the Gemara Rosh HaShanah, the ultimate redemption will be in Nisan.)

Tu B’Shvat begins a teshuvah cycle that culminates in Pesach. And the fact that Tu B’Shvat is the Rosh HaShanah for trees is connects us back to Gan Eden, which is the utopian existence that we are trying to regain.

Have a meaningful Tu B’Shvat.

(One final note - it is not a coincidence that Tu B’Shvat, Shushan Purim and Pesach are all on the fifteenth of the month!)

Photo Credits: Free photos for websites -

1 comment:

  1. Great post R' Yaakov. Thank you for your work.