Tu Bishvat, a New Year for Trees

By Rabbi Mendy Piekarski

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Tu Bishvat, a New Year for Trees
Photo By Rabbi Mendy Piekarski Children came to a spa resort at Chabad of Topanga on Tu Bishvat (The new year for trees). They decorated spa slippers, created their own herbal tea, granola trail mix and soaps. Afterwards, they did some yoga and meditation, and then enjoyed their snacks!
Once there was a man who was traveling through the desert, hungry, thirsty, and tired. He had been walking for days, with no food or water in sight. Just when he was about to give up hope, he came across a tree that bore luscious fruit and provided plenty of shade. A spring of water flowed beneath it. He ate the fruit, drank the water, and rested in the shade, feeling grateful for the gifts the tree had given him. As he was about to leave, he turned to the tree and said, “Tree, O tree, what should I bless you with? Should I bless you with sweet fruit? Your fruit is already sweet. Should I bless you with plentiful shade? Your shade is plentiful. Should I bless you with a spring of water running beneath you? A spring of water already runs beneath you. The only thing I can bless you with is that all the trees planted from your seeds may be like you.” This story is from the Talmud, and it reminds us of the beauty and generosity of nature. It also reminds us of the importance of being grateful for what we have, and the impact that our words can have. The man in the story realized that he couldn’t bless the tree with anything it didn’t already have, but he still chose to bless it in a way that would benefit others. I often think of this story when I go on nature hikes, particularly in the canyon. The canyon area is home to at least nine different plant communities, each with their own unique combination of flora and fauna. There are only four other places in the world that have a similar type of plant community, making it a truly special place. Despite all the beauty, there is something at the source of it all that often goes unnoticed—the tree roots. While the flowers, fruit, and shade are what catch the eye and provide beauty, it is actually the roots that are crucial for a tree’s survival. The roots provide stability, absorb water and nutrients, and hold the tree in place during strong winds. The part of the tree that we don’t see is what contributes the most to its survival. Similarly, in our lives, it is possible to pride ourselves and others by what we produce and blossom on the outside. Yet, what’s most important is actually what’s on the inside; our consciousness, faith, and our roots. Our consciousness and faith is what keeps us grounded, determined, and growing, no matter how the winds of life blow. Recently, we celebrated the Festival of Tu Bishvat, a holiday that celebrates the “new year” for the trees. It’s a time of year to connect to nature and to the depth of nature, not just its beauty, but also its roots. It’s a time to reflect on our own roots, and to think about what truly matters to us. I encourage you to put aside a few minutes of your day, and think about your roots. Take some time to reflect on the following questions: Where do my roots and convictions lie? What is truly important in my life? Am I living a life that aligns with my convictions? What can I do today to “water my roots” and live a life that is more true to who I am? Answering these questions can help us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. It can help us to live more authentic lives, and to be more grateful for the blessings we have. Wishing you a Happy Tu Bishvat!

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