The Mishnah states:1 “There are four ‘beginnings of the new year’ (roshei shanim). The first of Nissan is the new year for (Jewish2 ) kings and festivals ... the first of Shevat is the new year for trees according to Beis Shammai; according to Beis Hillel, it is the fifteenth of Shevat.”

According to the well-known principle,3 “The end is wedged in the beginning, and the beginning in the end,” it follows that the new year for kings and festivals — the first of the four new years mentioned in the Mishnah — is particularly related to the final new year mentioned in the Mishnah, the new year for trees.

How are these seemingly disparate new years related?

Furthermore, since the new year for kings and for festivals are both celebrated on the same day of the month (according to Beis Shammai), there evidently is a connection between the two. What is that connection?

Our Sages inform us4 that each of the Three Festivals is connected to the produce of Eretz Yisrael: Pesach is celebrated in the spring, the time of planting; Shavuos, the “Festival of Cutting,” is the time of the wheat harvest; and Sukkos, the “Festival of Gathering,” is the time when the crops, harvests and fruits have been gathered in.

Chassidus explains5 the relationship of the Three Festivals to produce as follows: The Jewish people are deemed “G‑d’s produce,”6 which He has “implanted in the earth,”7 since the soul’s descent into this world is like a seedling planted in the earth.

The entire purpose of planting is to produce a bountiful harvest.8 So, too, the purpose of the Jews’ tremendous descent and “implantation” on this earth is to produce copious spiritual results — by descending below, the soul achieves much greater heights than it enjoyed prior to its descent.

Moreover, the manner in which produce grows provides a vital lesson as to how a Jew is to “grow” spiritually:

a) A seed develops into a flourishing plant or tree only after it first decomposes in the ground and is nullified to the earth’s power of growth.9 This nullification results in a yield that is immeasurably greater — quantitatively and qualitatively — than the seed itself. Similarly with regard to the soul’s descent and ascent: To obtain a “high yield,” the “implanted” soul must completely nullify — i.e., “decompose” — itself, serving G‑d with total kabbalas ol, acceptance of the Divine yoke.

b) Just as with regard to physical planting wherein the verse states,10 “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy,” so, too, with regard to spiritual planting: the tears and self-nullification during the spiritual “planting season” leads to joy and gladness at the time of the spiritual harvest.

We accordingly can understand why the Three Festivals were established synchronously with the produce of the land. The two aspects that produce the soul’s spiritual growth and elevation, self-nullification and joy, are both found in the Three Festivals:

On one hand, the Hebrew word for festivals, regalim, also means foot (only one who can travel by foot is obliged to make the festival pilgrimage11 ). The “foot,” the lowest organ of the body, denotes the self-nullification and “decomposing” service of kabbalas ol, wherein the individual serves G‑d not out of the mind’s understanding or the heart’s feeling, but as a simple “foot soldier.” The above is, of course, the aspect of nullification and decomposition of planting.

On the other hand, the Three Festivals are “Festivals of Joy” — the joy that is manifest at the time of spiritual growth and elevation.

This is also the common thread that runs through the new year for festivals and kings, both of which are on the same day — the first of Nissan:

By his example, a Jewish king is to imbue his subjects with nullification to G‑d.12 This nullification and “sowing in tears,” enables an even higher ascent, “reaping in joy.”

Of the Three Festivals themselves, the greatest degree of joy is on Sukkos — “On Sukkos, since ... the harvest and the fruits of the trees have already been gathered in, the word ‘joy’ is stated three times.”13 This is to say that the great joy of Sukkos is a result ofthe “fruits have been gathered,” and not only the wheat that is gathered on Shavuos.

This greater joy relates to an additional quality of fruit: While wheat and barley come from a previously edible quantity of grain, a fruit tree grows from an inedible pit, so that the difference between the pit and the final fruit is of much greater qualitative significance — it is truly something new.

The connection between the new year for kings and festivals and that of the new year for trees can now be understood: The aspect of the ascent alluded to in the new years of kings and festivals culminates in the greatest degree of growth and ascent possible — in the growth of fruit from the lowly pit.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVI, pp. 82-85.