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Happy Tu B'Shvat!

By Tzvi Fishman
1/19/2011, 12:00 AM

How could I not write a blog about Tu B’Shvat? This is the holiday of Eretz Yisrael! I suppose next to my love for Hashem, I love the Land of Israel more than anything else in the world. Without Eretz Yisrael, the Jewish Nation is shattered, and the Jewish People are small scattered communities that always have to cow-tow to the gentiles. Without Eretz Yisrael, the Torah is a shrunken truncated mini-version of the complete Torah of Eretz Yisrael. Without Eretz Yisrael, G-d Himself is reduced to a second-string Diety, seemingly not strong enough to keep His Chosen People in the Land He gave them, for there is no greater desecration than the Name of G-d than the exile (Ezekiel, 36:20). Without Eretz Yisrael, there is no prophecy, no Beit HaMikdash, and the Divine Presence doesn’t appear in the world.

"The Land that the eyes of the L-rd watches from the beginning of the year to the end."

I’m not the only one who loves Eretz Yisrael. G-d also loves the Land of Israel with a towering love, watching over it like a favorite child, from the beginning of the year to its end.

I love Eretz Yisrael so much, I never want to leave it. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. If I was forced to, it would be a terrible punishment. The worst punishment there could be. Just like a man who loves a woman wants to be always with her, so too a Jew should actively yearn, every single minute, to always be in Israel. It’s part of being a Jew. It’s the integral part of keeping the Torah. It’s the main part of serving G-d completely. Living a life of Torah in Eretz Yisrael is what Judaism is all about.   

On Tu B’Shvat we eat the fruits of Eretz Yisrael as described in the Torah, “For the L-rd your G-d brings you into a good Land, a Land of water courses, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a Land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a Land of olive oil, and date honey; a land where you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack anything in it…” (Devarim, 8:8). During the festive meal celebrating the holiday, our Sages instruct us to first eat the fruits which appear in the Torah verse closest to the word “Land.” From here, Rabbi Kook writes that the person who is closest to the Land of Israel, and who exerts himself the most in its settlement, is the closest to perfection, and he will be blessed first in the World To Come.     

What an incredible blessing and honor and privilege to live here!

For all of you who are still in the impure lands of the gentiles, go out and buy yourself some fruit and wine from the Land of Israel. Make a party! Bless Hashem for the good Land He has given us, and for its fruits and overflowing bounty. As it says in the Gemara, the surest sign of the end of the exile is when the trees in the Land of Israel give forth their fruits in abundance (Sanhedrin 98A, see Rashi there). That time is now!

May you all be blessed from the Land of Israel and merit to be a part of it as soon as you can.