Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
A teacher once told me that four words characterize the times in which we live: “I”, “here”, “now” and “everything.” That’s why Tu Bishvat, which begins this evening, is one of the most important days of the year: it stands in opposition to these four words. We celebrate the holiday of the trees not in spring but in winter, before flowers are on display and fruit begins to ripen. We do not see “everything here and now” but instead invest in the future – through planting, watering, waiting, and believing.
As to opposing our “I” and focusing instead on consideration of others, a famous story in the gemara (Ta’anit 23a) comes to mind. A man is seen planting a carob tree. When asked how long it will take to produce fruit, he answers “70 years.” He is then asked why he is planting a tree whose fruit he cannot expect to harvest and answers that just as he enjoyed fruit from trees he did not plant so will others enjoy fruit from the tree he is planting now.
We see that natural processes are slow and hidden, that development happens beneath the surface. We do not see immediate results but still need to care for what we plant and to strengthen our resolve to be patient. This same approach holds true in almost every area of life: marriage, raising children, personality and character improvement, a course of study, and others. In an era when we wait impatiently for two blue checks next to our Whatsapp message, we are reminded once a year of the things we need most: patience, persistent effort, devotion. All of these, in the end, bring the longed for results and wonderful fruits.
Happy Tu Bishvat!