Torah scroll
Torah scroll iStock

"Several years ago," Rabbi David Amitai relates, "I was walking the streets of Jerusalem on a wintry night in the month of Shevat when I met Rabbi Yisrael Ariel. I asked him: 'Rabbi Yisrael, perhaps you can share with me a dvar Torah that will bolster me on Tu Bishvat?'

"Rabbi Yisrael answered: 'I will tell you a story that will give you more bolstering than all the divrei Torah in the world.' And so he began: 'Several years ago I heard a lecture from a former member of Etzel (Jewish underground in Israel prior to Israeli independence). After the presentation, I spoke with the lecturer. He told me he was from Bulgaria and I was surprised since not many dati (observant) Jews came from there."

"I asked him and he admitted that was true. He came from a home with almost no knowledge of Judaism. There was no Pesach, no Shabbat, and no Hanukkah. Nothing. But once a year, in the middle of winter, there was a special event: His grandmother would invite the whole family over for a festive meal in which they ate all kinds of fruits.

"At these meals, his grandmother would declare that this night is the birthday of the trees and, in honor of the occasion, at midnight, the trees would kiss each other. I was then a small child and one year I was determined to see the kissing."

"I exerted every effort to stay up until midnight. At the designated time, I expectantly went outside but was disappointed not to see anything unusual. All the trees stayed where they were. I told my grandmother that I did not see anything and she said: "My silly boy, of course not. You need to know that only the trees in the Land of Israel kiss on this night . . ."

'At that moment I decided deep in my heart that I would someday live in Israel. I eventually made aliyah and here I am.'

"Rabbi Yisrael ended his story as follows: 'What a wonder. There are Jews whose inspiration and identity come neither from Hanukkah, nor Pesach, and not even from Yom Kippur, but from Tu Bishvat alone!'"