1. Among all the various communities of Israel the 15th of Shvat is connected with the custom of eating fruits. A Jewish custom is of course considered to have the validity of Torah. Tu BeShvat is called Rosh HaShanah for Trees which would include all trees and flora, but it is especially related to the fruits with which Eretz Yisrael is praised. These are the seven species mentioned in the verse: “A land of wheat and barley, and vine and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey [of dates]” (Devarim 8:8). Therefore, on Tu BeShvat we try to eat the fruits that are mentioned in this verse.

The order of this verse is precise, so much so, that Halachah rules that when making a choice of which fruit to choose first for the berachah [benediction], the order should follow the verse. Nevertheless on Tu BeShvat we do not emphasize the wheat and barley, but rather, the fruits listed in the latter part of the sentence. We don’t make a big deal of eating cakes made of wheat or barley, rather we eat the five kinds of fruits.

This emphasis is very clearly expressed in the special prayers and liturgy recited according to the Sefardic custom and stressed in their Tikun.

This phenomenon should give us a lesson in our daily service of G‑d and it should be clearly understood by everyone, even an average Jew, in a fundamental way.

The Divine service of every Jew follows the order of four categories of existence: inanimate (mineral), vegetable (flora), animal (fauna), intelligence — speech (human). A person must strive in his spiritual self-development to rise from level to level. We must leave the level of the inanimate and become alive. The common characteristic of fundamental life is growth. This is common to all vegetation. On Tu BeShvat we must learn from the kingdom of flora to constantly grow. But why leave the wheat and barley out? It is after all the “bread that sustains (satiates) man’s heart”! We can’t live without bread. The other foods “... sustain the soul of every living being.” [Not so important as bread.]

But herein lies the difference, wheat and barley represent the basics of life, while fruits represent the pleasures of life. The lesson we learn is that at the start of a Jew’s service to G‑d there must be the element of pleasure. It should not be by force of habit, or even as a result of meditation — as if it is only as prescribed and without liveliness. There must be the element of pleasure. Only when your service of G‑d is also truly pleasurable, can it be truly complete.

When a person starts out on the level of growth (vegetable) he must already have the goal of “with all your might,” which includes all the encompassing attributes of desire and pleasure.

In our daily experience we see that when something is done without pleasure, even if it is done faithfully, whether it be personal matters or holy matters, perfection will be missing. When pleasure is added, which is the soul power that encompasses all the others, then you can have true and complete perfection; just as the power of desire pleasure — can transform the fast day — when no food is eaten — to be a day of pleasure.

You then have an amalgamation of the revealed soul powers, intellect, and the transcending, pleasure, powers.

So Rosh HaShanah for Trees tells us that right from the start you must set out to be “compared to the One Above”; your general resolution every day, and at the start of the year, is to strive for perfection, which will permeate all your powers with pleasure.

At the start of the day you should already have the goal of reaching “the love of delights,” so that when you say “Modeh Ani — I offer thanks ...,” there is a special inspiration and feeling of delight.

You may rationalize that when you open your eyes you are only in the first stage of growth, anything is good enough, so long as you fulfill the minimum requirement.

The Alter Rebbe in Shulchan Aruch anticipates this and he quotes the Moreh Nevuchim and the Tur, and starts the first chapter of the Shulchan Aruch with “I always place G‑d before me.” This comes even before “Modeh Ani.” He shows us that when you open your eyes you must think that G‑d is standing near you. This realization will give you great delight. Even the simplest person, before he says Modeh Ani, even before ritually washing his hands, must realize that G‑d hovers near his bed “... and He searches his mind and heart to see if he is serving Him as is fitting.” In such a case no complex meditation is required to reach the feeling of pleasure and delight.

When he sees that G‑d left the upper and lower worlds to give him His full attention, to see how he is serving G‑d, at that moment he will recite Modeh Ani with exuberance and joy. For G‑d wants to see that He commanded and we fulfill His will! Even the simplest Jew who cannot fathom the esoteric explanations of G‑dliness still knows that there is a Creator who created him — and now he is filled with delight, because G‑d is interested in his words and action. He wants to call out in praise and thanks to G‑d, but since he has still not ritually washed his hands, he may not even say G‑d’s Name, so he recites the Modeh Ani, a formula which does not include the Name of G‑d.

And although he doesn’t physically see G‑d hovering over him, he knows that the Creator is there .

A person’s growth starts anew each day. While he is asleep he is inanimate, when he awakes he is like vegetation, at that moment he thinks that “G‑d is always before me,” as the Shulchan Aruch teaches us. For this is the directive of the Torah of life, and the Torah of truth, which commands, requests and gives us the power to do. What does it tell us? That we must conform to the will of G‑d and then He will help us. This directive and incentive is given to every Jew, “Believers, children of believers,” from Sinai on, when we were sworn and given strength to fulfill our purpose of serving our Creator. We must see that our pleasure is connected with the delight of G‑d.

This concept is expressed at the end of creation, when the Torah says: “And G‑d saw all that He had made and it was very good,” which is followed by: “... which G‑d created to function [to do].” This teaches us that the Jew must become a partner to G‑d in creation to improve on the “very good” of the world, which is accomplished when we do our role with pleasure.

Chassidic tradition tells us that R. Mordechai Chernobyler was physically obese because of the pleasure he had from saying “Amen, may His great Name be blessed....” Pleasurable spiritual sound waves are fattening!

Actually this concept is earlier referred to in the Talmud. In fact it is related in regard to a non-Jew, who conquered and oppressed the Jews. When the Roman General Vespasian received a good tiding [that he had been elected as emperor of Rome] his bone thickened and he could neither put on nor remove his shoe (Talmud Gittin 56a). How much more so, when we speak of good words spoken by a Jew.

On Tu BeShvat one must start his personal growth — just as on Tu BeShvat the sap in the tree begins to draw moisture from the earth — and this must permeate and spread through the year. Every day, when you wake up from sleep and rise from the state of inanimate, to become alive and start growing, there must be a spiritual pleasure and delight. It will influence the body in all its actions.

By taking this resolution from this day and from this place, a shul where Torah is studied and prayer is offered, we will certainly attain success, especially when the good resolutions are accepted as a community.

In the Torah portion of today it says that the Jews camped “as one man with one heart,” together, facing the mountain. The power of Torah unifies all.

This day is called Rosh, head, which encompassed all the organs, and this farbrengen can lead us to increase in our Torah and mitzvos to the point of, “Know Him in all your ways” and “All your actions shall be for the sake of Heaven.”

Action, speech, and thought should include the delight of fulfilling the desire of G‑d, which brings the greater blessings for us: wheat and barley, from His hand, and all other pleasurable things. With the Shechinah and Mashiach, who will lead us to our Holy Land, when “... the eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year,” and taking also the custom of the seven kinds that praised Eretz Yisrael, as mentioned in the AriZal.

And we will find the complete Eretz Yisrael including the expanded areas — that expansion which comes from pleasure in the revealed and obvious good.

2. The section of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah assigned for today is the last three chapters of Laws of Messengers and Partners.

There are many commentaries and books which deal with explaining the works of Rambam relating to their halachic implications. What they do not do, is approach the moral lesson to be learned from the particular halachah in the Rambam. We will address ourselves to this aspect.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that a Jew must learn a lesson from every experience. Certainly there is much to be learned from the Rambam.

In chapter eight of today’s section the Rambam writes:

If one gives eggs to a fowl keeper to sit his hens upon them to brood, until the chicks hatch, and then to raise the chicks, and share the profit, he must pay for his labor and foodstuffs. Similarly, if one gives calves or foals to a shepherd to breed until they are full-grown, on half profits, he must daily pay him for his labor and foodstuffs.

In other words, it is accepted that they will divide the future profits evenly; for this reason they entered the partnership. The emphasis here is that as long as the shepherd or fowl keeper works he must be paid by the partner. This is in addition to his fair share of the profits at the end.

Hidden in this halachah is the essential theme of man’s Divine service to his Master.

What is man’s purpose? “I was created to serve my Master.” But in reality it is a partnership. The Holy One, Blessed be He, gives man the things with which to fulfill his role in life. Like the eggs given to the fowl keeper or the calves to the shepherds, the Jew must show results from this “partnership with G‑d in creation.”

From the details of this halachah we see that in addition to the profit or reward, which will be received at the end of the partnership, G‑d must give every Jew his wages and expenses, daily.

What measure must G‑d use in allocating foodstuff to his Jewish workers? Regarding the supply of food to workers. the Mishnah relates:

Should you even prepare for them a banquet like Shlomo’s, when in his glory, you cannot fulfill your undertaking, for they are the children of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov. (B. Metzia 83a)

Thus the measure of foodstuffs is elaborate, and the wages even more so. Now you can imagine what reward is in store, in the future, for one who carries out his share of the partnership properly.

When the Jew receives the wages and expenses, he uses it to increase his Divine service to G‑d. The previous Rebbe told of an incident about the Rebbe Maharash, who once asked a non-Jew why he eats and then asked a Jewish attendant the same question. The Jew answered that he eats to live, so that he could serve G‑d.

A careful analysis of the details of this halachah will throw light on the purpose of creation, as described in the book Etz Chaim.

The purpose of creation is to reveal the perfection of G‑d’s powers and actions.

Now, in the supernal worlds an ability or potential power does not lack the kinetic. G‑d’s powers, even in their spiritual form are already perfect. But G‑d wanted His “reality of ability” to be revealed in a plain world of action — the present physical, lowest form of existence. For this end, the systematic order of the development and evolvement of the worlds was set in motion, to reveal the true power of G‑d in the physical existence. This idea is expressed in Tanya, chapter 35:

.. The purpose of the “hishtalshelus” [or development, unraveling] of the worlds and their descent, degree by degree, is not for the sake of the higher [spiritual] worlds, because for them this is a descent from the light of His blessed countenance. But the ultimate purpose (of creation) is this lowest world, etc....

We may find an analogy to this in our halachah. Eggs and chicks represent the potential and actual — ability and reality. In the egg there already exists the potential, not only for one chicken but also for countless generations into the future. But this is only the power of potential, or ability. When the hen incubates the egg, and the chick emerges, then you have the actual —reality.

Our partnership with G‑d entitles us to the potential power, and our Divine service transforms the potential to the real, which reveals the perfection of His Dowers.

Another aspect of this process is that the hens brood and incubate the eggs, keeping them warm, until the chicks crack the shell and emerge. In our Divine service we must also employ the enthusiasm and warmth of holiness to cause the G‑dly spark to pierce through the covering and concealment of physicality and be revealed. Not just revealed, but developed to its full potential, as the chick must grow to be a full-fledged rooster, which can itself give life to another generation.

Another aspect of this analogy is, that the job of the rooster is to wake a Jew in the morning to rise and serve his master. Similarly, a Jew must reveal the G‑dly spark, which must be developed to the point that it will influence others to increase in holiness.

Thus the lesson we learn from this halachah in the Rambam is, that a Jew must be secure in his knowledge that not only in the future, when he finishes his job will he receive his share of the “profits,” but also now at the beginning of his service, G‑d will endow him with the wages and foodstuffs, to enable him to carry out his mission with joy, comfort and gladness of heart.

As we speak of a fowl keeper or shepherd it is clear that the analogy applies to all Jews, even the average or simple person. He too is assured that the Creator will bestow on him all the necessary powers, both the material and spiritual, to fulfill his mission.

Which brings us to the theme of the day of the 15th of Shvat.

The Talmud says that the Jews count by the moon and are compared to the moon. Thus the full phase of the moon on the 15th of the Hebrew month is related to the unity of the Jewish people, as well as the perfection of their Divine service and the “wages” they receive from above. And when Jews receive the benevolence from G‑d and utilize their powers to fulfill their role in he world, with the pride of Yaakov, so that all the nations of the world see that we are in a state of fullness [like the full moon], then, this adds honor and glory to the Jewish people. As the Megillah relates:

And all the rulers of the provinces ... supported the Jews; because the fear of Mordechai had fallen upon them. For Mordechai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces.

They will even help the Jews fulfill their mission, with joy and gladness of heart.

Our involvement in all these aspects will speed up and bring closer the future redemption so that the “profit will be shared.”

And very soon all the Jewish people will go to our Holy Land, there to receive the seven kinds that praise Eretz Yisrael, in their own fields and orchards, in the Holy Land which will follow the laws of the Torah.

This will be through the true and complete redemption, when the Jewish people, Eretz Yisrael, with Torah will be perfect and complete.