This Shabbat is also Tu B’shvat (the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) in which we celebrate the “New Year for Trees” and reflect on the importance of our natural environment. With all the current talk on climate change and environmental impact, isn’t it interesting to ponder how over two thousand years ago the Jewish people were already concerned about our natural world and even had a holiday to celebrate it!  

So here is a thought to ponder as we give gratitude to G-d for sustaining our world and reflect on the importance of trees for our environment, our enjoyment and physical wellbeing.  

Just like human beings, trees desire to reproduce and spread their seed. Just like human beings, trees don’t just want to spread their influence to their immediate surroundings, they wish to take root in diverse and sometimes very distant places. But it faces a problem. The tree’s reach is limited to the extent of its own branches. So it must become creative and seek out more mobile couriers to transport its seeds.

So the tree produces fruit, in which its seeds are enveloped by tasty, colourful and sweet-smelling fibres and juices. You see, the seeds themselves would not arouse the interest of animals and hungry humans, but with their attractive packaging, they have no shortage of customers. Their external fruit is consumed and the seeds are then inadvertently deposited in distant places. How ingenious!

We can all learn a vital lesson from our herbage brothers and sisters. Our tradition tells us that we have all been placed in this world with a particular purpose and mission to accomplish. We have to do whatever it takes to identify our unique message and then deliver it to those out there in our world. We must learn how to communicate with others, sometimes, through employing devices to make our message attractive. We fortify our message with intellectual sophistication, add in some emotional sauce, then dress it in colourful words and images. But we must always bear in mind that this is only the packaging – the fruit containing the seed. We must never loose sight of our message. 

One of the main customs of the day is to taste fruits. As we do so this Shabbat, lets remember the seed – the message that we wish to impart on our loved ones, our friends and our community. Let’s ask ourselves, “Are we being successful in spreading our message or must we deploy other, more ‘fruitful’ means?” 

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom and Tu B’shvat Sameach!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana R Friedman