Let’s make a bet. Take 10 fellow Jews and ask them a very simple question; “What’s the next Jewish holiday?” There’s a good chance that many of them will say “Purim.” After all, we recently finished Chanukah and everyone knows that the holiday after that is Purim followed by Pesach… right? Dearest friends, if you jump from Chanukah straight to Purim, you will have missed one of the most special, beautiful and meaningful holidays on the Jewish calendar — Tu B’Shvat.
What kind of a Jewish holiday is that? There’s no Kiddush or Hallel. No building a Sukkah or massive cleaning projects. No special Torah or Megillah reading, no cheesecake, Matza or Marror, no spending $100 on a fancy lemon and no 5,000 calorie meal… So I ask again, what kind of Jewish holiday is that? You are one hundred percent right. Tu B’Shvat is none of the above, because it doesn’t need any of those elements. Tu B’Shvat is life itself in its purest form. Allow me to explain.
In Israel, most schools learn half a day on Tu B’Shvat and then the children – together with their teachers – leave their classrooms to help bring the Land of Israel to life. It’s still the middle of winter and the ground is wet and muddy, yet tens of thousands of children brave the cold to do one of the most basic things a Jewish person can — and must — do… plant a tree in Israel.
“And Avraham planted an Eshel in Beersheba” (Beresheit 21:33). According to the Talmud, this “Eshel” was not just one tree. “It teaches that Abraham planted an orchard with many types of fruit trees” (Sotah 10a)/ Our father Avraham, who had just been promised that the Land of Israel would belong to him and his descendants forever, carried out the most basic act one could do: The planting of fruit trees in that very soil!
Fast forward about 3,800 years. It’s now 5779 (2019) and The Nation of Israel has returned to the Land. We have built homes, schools, cities, factories, airports and hospitals, yet before all those things were done, the early pioneers did something far more basic; they planted trees all across the Land. Why trees? Simple… because a tree is symbolic of life. “Etz chaim hee…” – “It is a tree of life…” (Mishlei 3:18) The more trees we plant – especially fruit trees – the more life we bring to ourselves, our families and the entire nation of Israel!
This Tu B’Shvat, a special opportunity has presented itself and the Jewish world will be coming together in a unique display of unity. Just over two months ago, 11 Jews were brutally murdered in a congregation in Pittsburgh… the “Tree of Life” synagogue. Two major Jewish organizations, World Mizrachi and Zo Artzeinu, with over 140 years of Israel and Jewish activism combined, have launched a project to help plant 11,000 new fruit — “Trees of Life” — in Israel, in memory of the 11 Pittsburgh victims of terror. World Mizrachi, the global Religious Zionist movement has been spreading “Torat Eretz Yisrael” for over 100 years and Zo Artzeinu’s “Israel Trees Project” has planted hundreds of thousands of new fruit trees in conjunction with farmers throughout Israel from many different backgrounds and diverse communities. These fruit trees help make the Land of Israel flourish, grow, come to life, and support the local communities who take care of them. Numerous clips of farmers at work can be seen at IsraelTrees.org
The project is open to everyone in Israel and abroad; all you need to do is go to the website to plant together with us. Tree planting will commence on January 21, Tu B’Shvat.
Anyone wishing to ‘plant’ trees will receive a certificate of thanks, together with a booklet containing the Mitzvot Ha’tluyot Ba’aretz, the biblical agricultural laws applicable in Israel. This is in partnership with local farmers, and an opportunity to share in all the relevant mitzvot — orlah, neta revai, shmitta, teruma and ma’aser to name a few.
“I will Ordain my Blessing for you” (Vayikra-Leviticus 25:20). The great biblical Jewish leader Moshe (Moses) wanted to be able to do this, and the Ga’on from Villna wrote about it as something he too wished to be able to do.
In response to the taking of life, we plant new life!
Let’s show the world that the ground is not just for burial but also for life! Join together with people around the world and help plant fruit trees in memory of the Pittsburgh victims from the Tree of Life congregation.
All the information including moving videos is on this website: www.israeltrees.org/treesoflife