1. Tu BeShevat is “the Rosh HaShanah of the trees.” The connection between this holiday and our service is evident from the phrase: “for a man is like the trees of the field.” Our Sages explain that a fruit tree serves as a metaphor for Torah sages and by extension, to the totality of the Jewish people since “all your sons are students of the L‑rd.” Accordingly, it can be explained that from a certain dimension — the aspect of man which can be compared to a fruit-bearing tree — the Rosh HaShanah of the Trees adds a level of fulfillment above that associated with Rosh HaShanah, the day of man’s creation.

This concept is based on the following principle: It is written: “He (G‑d) placed the world within your hearts,” i.e., every entity that exists within the world at large also exists within a Jew’s heart.1 Indeed, it would be more appropriate to reverse the order of that statement and say that because an entity exists within a Jew’s heart, a parallel is brought into being within the world at large.

Thus, we find the Jewish people referred to with the metaphor of land as the verse states, “You shall be a desired land,”2 and therefore, it is understandable that all the characteristics associated with land including the potential to produce fruit are reflected within the Jewish people. In particular, they share a special connection to the chosen land, Eretz Yisrael,3 and the seven species of fruit for which Eretz Yisrael is praised in the Torah.

Thus, we find each of these seven species employed as a metaphor for the Jewish people.4 The Jews are called, “the first of His grain” (referring to wheat and barley). Psalms describes the Jews as “a vine brought forth from Egypt” (grapes). Similarly, we find the metaphors of figs, “the first fruit of the fig tree in its season;” pomegranates, “your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates;” olives, “The L‑rd called your name, ‘a green olive tree, fair, with goodly fruit;”‘ and a date palm, “Your stature is like a palm tree,” and “the righteous will flourish like a palm tree.”

Since Tu BeShevat is the “the Rosh HaShanah of the trees,” it generates new life energy for those dimensions of a Jew’s service which are compared to trees. This concept can be understood in the context of the comparison between grain and fruit. There are two fundamental differences between them:

a) Grain is the staple of our diet and is necessary for the maintenance of our health. Fruit, in contrast, is not required for these reasons and is eaten, primarily, because of the pleasure it brings.

b) The growth potential exhibited by trees far exceeds that of grain. Though there is an abundant increase in quantity, the grain which is harvested is of the same nature as the kernels which were originally planted. In contrast, the seed of a fruit tree is of an entirely different nature than the fruit that is later harvested.

Similarly, in regard to our service of G‑d, the metaphor of fruit trees alludes to a service which is not limited to the basic necessities, but rather generates pleasure. Similarly, it reveals the potential for growth, not only a quantitative increase, but also, a leap to a higher level, a new framework of reference. Tu BeShevat, Rosh HaShanah of the trees, generates a new thrust of energy to carry out this service. Furthermore, there is an interrelation between this service and the service described by the metaphor of grain. Therefore, the new energy generated by Tu BeShevat also adds to that service.

There is an added dimension to the above services this year when Tu BeShevat falls on Shabbos.5 Shabbos is also connected with the service of pleasure and thus, shares an intrinsic bond with the service alluded to by fruit.

The weekly Torah portion, parshas Beshallach, also contributes to this theme. Parshas Beshallach describes the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. Two of the verses quoted above which use the fruits of Eretz Yisrael as metaphors for the Jewish people, “a vine brought forth from Egypt” and “your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates” are associated with the exodus by our Sages.

The concept of planting and harvesting is connected with the concepts of exile and redemption as the Alter Rebbe relates in Torah Or:

We find the expression “sowing” used in regard to the Jews in the Egyptian exile as it is written, “I will sow it for Me in the land.” Our Sages declared: “A person sows a kor to reap a harvest of several korrim....”

It is written, “Israel is sanctified unto the L‑rd, the first of His grain.” The emphasis is on “His grain,” that the Jews are G‑d’s produce.... Thus, just as a person sows grain for the additional amount that will grow, so too, since G‑d wanted the revelation of G‑dliness in the world to be increased... He sowed Israel His produce so that His glory would be revealed in an increased manner. Thus, there will be a great revelation of G‑dliness on this lowly plane, just as in the higher spiritual wonders... as will be revealed in the Messianic age. The Jews are the ones who cause this great revelation...

The Alter Rebbe continues, employing both the metaphors of grain and a vine to describe the activities of the Jews. Similarly, the Midrash uses the metaphors of sowing grain and planting trees and vines to describe G‑d’s sending the Jews into exile in Egypt.

In a more particular sense, the metaphor of implanting or sowing the Jews into exile is relevant on a personal level and relates to the manner in which the soul descends into this world to elevate the body, the animal soul, and its portion in the world at large, making a dwelling for G‑d in the lower worlds. Through our fulfillment of mitzvos (which are also described by the metaphor of sowing),6 we draw down the revelation of G‑dliness into the world.

2. As mentioned this revelation of G‑dliness is brought about by the Jews’ service. Accordingly, the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is praised, i.e., the produce which the Torah regards as praiseworthy, each serves as a metaphor for different aspects of the service of the Jewish people. The first two species, wheat and barley, are species of grain. Our Sages explain that wheat is used as food for human beings, while barley is primarily used for animal fodder. Thus, these two species refer to the service of the G‑dly soul and the service of the animal soul respectively.

The Hebrew word for man, Adam, relates to the word, Adamoh, “I resemble,” in this context, “I resemble the One above.” The aspect of our beings for which this description is most appropriate is the G‑dly soul. Barley, “food for the animal (soul),” is intended to elevate and refine the animal soul. Though this service represents a descent, ultimately, it elevates even the G‑dly soul itself and lifts it to a higher rung of service.

To explain: We find that the animals were created before man. Similarly, in our own lives, we are required to feed our animals before eating ourselves. This pattern is reflected in our spiritual makeup. The G‑dly soul is “the second soul in Israel.” Before it becomes fully manifest in the body,7 the animal soul has already established its hold.

Furthermore, for most Jews, their primary service is the refinement of the animal soul for, as the Alter Rebbe writes, “the attribute of the Beinoni is the attribute of all men” and a Beinoni’s service involves refining his animal soul which “originates in the forces of evil, enclothes itself in his flesh and blood, and has not been transformed into good.”

The reason why the G‑dly soul is forced to descend and enclothe itself in the animal soul which is material in nature is associated with the metaphor of sowing seeds described above. The animal soul is compared to the earth. Nevertheless, since its source is above that of the G‑dly soul, it has the potential to produce growth. Its refinement can bring one to greater heights than the service of the G‑dly soul alone.

This explanation raises a question: If the essential service is the refinement of the animal soul, why is wheat mentioned before barley in the verse praising Eretz Yisrael? On the surface, barley should be granted precedence.

The explanation is that it is impossible to begin with the animal soul alone. To refine the animal soul, it is necessary to first reveal the light of the G‑dly soul. When sowing seeds, the growth potential is latent in the earth, but unless a seed is sown, that potential will never be expressed. Similarly, because the animal soul is material in nature, the G‑dly soul must enclothe itself within it to bring out the power of its source.

This pattern is reflected in our service each day. According to the Jewish calendar, a day begins at night, thus the recitation of the Shema is the first mitzvah to be fulfilled each day.8 In that passage, we proclaim, “And you shall love the L‑rd, your G‑d,” the service of the G‑dly soul. Only afterwards, does the verse continue, “with all your heart,” interpreted by our Sages’ to mean, “with both your hearts,” i.e., with the animal soul as well. After the G‑dly soul’s expression of love, it is possible to refine the animal soul and transform it so that it too expresses love for G‑d.

Similarly, each morning, when a person arises as “a new creation,” he begins his day with the declaration, Modeh Ani, the acknowledgement of the G‑dly soul. Only afterwards, does he begin the service of working to refine the animal soul.

This pattern is alluded to in the verse, “Draw me out, we will run after You.” “Draw me out” is singular, referring to the service of arousing the G‑dly soul. “We will run after you” is plural, referring to the combined activity of the G‑dly soul and the animal soul. First, the G‑dly soul is aroused. Then, it enclothes itself in the animal soul and motivates it to the love of G‑d. This, in turn, brings out a greater love in the G‑dly soul, to the extent that it is motivated to “run.”

Based on the above, we can understand why wheat precedes barley in the verse cited above. The first efforts in harvesting the produce of the Jewish people must be directed to wheat, arousing love for G‑d within the G‑dly soul. Only afterwards, is it possible to proceed to barley, the refinement of the animal soul. It is through “the barley harvest,” however, that even the G‑dly soul can be lifted to a higher rung.9

3. As mentioned above, not only the grains, but also the five fruits for which Eretz Yisrael are praised, are metaphors for the services of the Jewish people. Furthermore, these services are also connected with the refinement of the animal soul.

a) Grapes — wine is described as “bringing joy to man and G‑d.” The name for G‑d used, E-lohim refers to those aspects of G‑dliness which limit and conceal revelation in order to allow for the creation of a limited world. Wine “brings joy to... E-lohim,” and thus, ensures that these forces of concealment will not prevent the revelation of G‑d’s inner qualities on this plane. Implied in this service is the refinement of the animal soul that it will no longer conceal G‑dliness.

b) Figs — according to certain opinions, the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree and all opinions agree that after the sin, Adam and Chavah were able to correct a portion of the shame caused by their sin by wearing clothes made from fig leaves. Thus, eating figs is associated with the refinement of the spiritual descent caused by this sin.

c) Pomegranates — pomegranates refer to the fulfillment of mitzvos as our Sages commented, “Even the empty ones among you are as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate is seeds.”10 The performance of mitzvos involves carrying out deeds with material objects in this world and thus, emphasizes the elevation of this lowly plane of existence.

In particular, there are two dimensions through which the pomegranate seeds reflect the service of refining the material aspects of the world through performing mitzvos. Firstly, in contrast to grape seeds which can be seen through their skin, the pomegranate seeds are hidden. This reflects how the mitzvos are enclothed and hidden in the material aspects of our existence.

Also, each pomegranate seed is associated with a separate portion of the fruit. This relates to the concept that every Jew, even “the empty ones,” are “filled with mitzvos,” i.e., are entities of substance.

d) Olives11 — “an olive releases its oil only when it is pressed.” This alludes to the service of nullifying one’s existence which is on a higher rung than the service of subduing the animal soul in the process of refinement.

e) Dates — our Sages state that a date palm produces fruit after seventy years. Seventy refers to the completion of the task of refining our seven emotional attributes, the essential aspect of our service at present.

The period of seventy years also implies that much effort and energy is invested in this service. Nevertheless, just as the effort required surpasses that required for other fruit, so, too, the sweetness of the fruit is much greater.

The appreciation of the above concepts can be enhanced in light of the Baal Shem Tov’s interpretation of the verse, “You shall be a desired land.” The Baal Shem explained that the Jews are like a choice land in which are buried valuable treasures of jewels and pearls. This implies that in addition to the produce the land provides (both grain — what is necessary to maintain one’s existence — and fruit — which brings pleasure) the land brings forth treasures which give a person much greater pleasure than fruit.

Within the context of our service, this refers to the revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah which, in his well-known parable, the Alter Rebbe described as the most precious jewel in the king’s crown.

In that parable, the Alter Rebbe explains how the jewel must be pulverized and mixed with water to form an elixir to be poured over the king’s son’s face in the hope that one drop will enter his mouth and save his life. From this explanation, we can appreciate that there are two dimensions to the revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah: one which is necessary to save the life of the King’s son, i.e., to preserve the Jewish people in the darkness of exile, and a deeper dimension, the revelation of the quality of pleasure in Torah,12 which is a preparation for the revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah in the Messianic age.

Shabbos contributes an aspect of completion and fulfillment to the days of the previous week. Thus, an added dimension to the above concepts is contributed this year when Tu BeShevat falls on the Shabbos that contributes fulfillment to the fortieth anniversary of Yud Shevat. As explained in the previous farbrengens, the service of the seven Nesi'im (who parallel the seven fruits for which Eretz Yisrael was blessed) in spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward has already been completed in an abundant manner, in a manner of pleasure.

Thus, from the above, we can derive several directives to be applied in our behavior. The “Rosh HaShanah of the Trees” should inspire each person to increase those aspects of his service which are related to pleasure and growth, the two concepts we can learn from trees as explained above.

Also, included in the concept of growth are the activities a person undertakes to influence others beginning with the members of his family and those living around him. Thus, he becomes like “a fruit tree, yielding fruit after its kind whose seed is within it.”

[Indeed, the latter concept sheds light on a problematic point. The Mishnah describes Tu BeShevat as “Rosh HaShanah for a Tree,” yet, in most texts, we find the holiday described as “Rosh HaShanah of the Trees,” using the plural form. This construction alludes to the fact that each tree serves as the source for others.]13

May these efforts lead to the period of ultimate growth, the Messianic age, when all our service carried out throughout the period of exile will blossom. The connection of the concept of growth to the Messianic era is emphasized by the fact that Tzemach, one of Mashiach’s names, means “growth.” Similarly, in the Messianic prophecy, “a sceptre shall arise in Israel,” the word for “sceptre,” shevet,14 also means “branch.” Similarly, the prophet declares, “A shoot shall come forth from the stem of Yishai, and a branch shall grow forth out of his roots.”

The above also relates to this week’s Torah portion, parshas Beshallach which describes the final stages of the exodus from Egypt. This is also related to the Messianic redemption as it is written, “As in the days of your departure from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” Our Sages also alluded to this connection, associating the song sang by Moshe at the Red Sea with the ultimate song of redemption to be sung at the coming of Mashiach. May we experience that redemption and all journey to Eretz Yisrael where we will “eat of its fruit and be satiated with its goodness.”15 May it be in the immediate future.