The 15th day of the month of Shevat (Hebrew letters Tess Vuv = 15) is commonly referred to as Tu B'Shevat, the Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, for trees. It is about this time that buds appear on most trees in Eretz Yisrael.
Moshe BurtMoshe Burt is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of the Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
"Over the centuries, Tu B'Shevat took on an added significance and became the day for celebrating the nature of Eretz Yisrael in general, and its rebuilding and resettlement. When the Jews lived in far-off places and communication was almost impossible between countries, many Jews went to almost superhuman efforts to try to obtain for Tu B'Shevat a piece of fruit grown in the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael. Today, too, it is customary for Jews throughout the world to buy fruit of Eretz Yisrael for this day as a way of identifying with the country." (Practical Judaism, Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, "Tu B'Shevat", page 280)
It is a widely accepted custom to commemorate the day by eating from some or all of the 15 different types of fruits (commonly known as the Tu B'Shevat Seder), and by giving new life by planting trees throughout Eretz Yisrael.
It is in this spirit, and against a background of the events threatened by the Israeli government against the Land of Israel and against Jews living in Gush Katif and in parts of the Shomron, that I encourage - plead, urge - all of you: while you plant your trees, whether it is via the Jewish National Fund or other organizations that plant trees throughout the country, plant trees in Gush Katif, as well.
My friend Moti Sender, who has expended tremendous effort in developing an English-language site for Katif.net, has set up a page on the site devoted to publicizing the need to plant trees and give new life to our land in Gush Katif. Please click on the Tu B'Shevat page, make your choice of what to plant and make your donation. And please, pass the address on to your friends, to everyone at shul, to email lists that you subscribe to, etc., so that they may act, as well. In this way, we may then give new and renewed life everywhere in Gush Katif, and encourage, reinforce and unite with our brethren there, standing strong against the threatened gezeira raah.
In the season of Tu B'shvat, our love of Eretz Yisrael should guide us to cleave to our land. Shem Mishmuel quotes the Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 1:2: "Four times a year the world is judged, and on Succot it is judged for the water." He continues by saying, "Although we are granted new life on Rosh Hashanah, the ability to activate our blessing for the year does not begin until Succot, two weeks later. This, of course applies equally well in the spiritual sense. Therefore... in terms of the development of the fruit of the trees and a Jew's development, the new year -- the moment that the potential becomes actualized -- is the 15th of Shevat." (Shem Mishmuel, on Tu B'Shevat, page 138)
In the merit of our collective unity, emunah and actions, may we all be zocheh to have our prayer reach Shemayim, unimpeded, ungarbled. As Rabbi Moshe Ungar would say each Thursday evening at his Gemara shuir back in Philadelphia, in "the old country", b'ezrat Hashem, may we be zocheh to demand, to "compel" Hashem to do "what he wants to do, to bring us the Moshiach and the Ge'ula Shleima, "bimhayro b'yameinu -- speedily, in our time."
May we see an end to low, dirty politics, political equivocation, perfidy and false cheshbonot, freedom and long life in Eretz Yisrael for Jonathan Pollard, and special merit for our brethren currently subject to police harassment, political interrogation and political persecution.
May we see the "yom Hashem al kol hagoyim" achshav -- immediately, chik-chak, miyad, etmol!