1. Tu B’Shevat is a day on which we do not say the usual prayers of supplication, referred to as ‘Tachnun.’

The effectiveness of the daily saying of ‘Tachnun’ depends upon the sincerity, concentration and depth of character of each individual. On a day when we omit the ‘Tachnun’ prayers, it must be that their ‘job’ is being taken care of, as it were, from heaven, and in a manner that is not limited or restricted by anyone’s personal shortcomings.

The special quality of Tu B’Shevat, that distinguishes it from other days on which we do not say ‘Tachnun,’ is that it is the New Year for Trees. It is the time when, in the land of Israel, the sap begins to flow in the trees with an obviously renewed vigor.

The basis and source of all things in the world is in the Holy Land, “upon which the eyes of G‑d rest from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” Trees, in their life-cycle, also follow the natural order of things in Eretz Yisroel, as it says in the Talmud, “From the essence of Israel, the whole world drinks.”

From one point of view, to be sure, the cycle of tree-life begins in Tishrei, during Sukkos, when we take the “four kinds” and the ‘Hoshanas’. However, after the interruption of autumn and winter, one first notices the sap flowing, bringing the earth’s new life to the trees, on Tu B’Shevat. Thereafter, we see the tree maturing, bringing forth its fruit in the proper season. Thus, Tu B’Shevat is the obvious beginning, and New Year for trees.

In many communities there is a special order of prayers for Tu B’Shevat. Chabad has not adopted this custom; but ‘these and those are the living words of G‑d’ — — in Chabad it is customary to say over the teachings of our revered Rebbeim, or at least to learn something special in the written and the Oral Torah.

There is also the custom on Tu B’Shevat of eating the fruits of the trees. This is quite astonishing, for the fruits are far from in season. Fruit takes a long time to ripen. Wheat, as the Gemara states, takes 52 days, while the date-palm, compared to a man in his service of G‑d [‘The righteous will flourish like a date-palm’ (Ps. 89)], takes 70 years from planting to fruit-time, as in the well-known story of Choni Hamagil. Why, then, do we eat the fruits now, before their season has come?

The answer is that on this day of Tu B’Shevat, we really do have the whole perfection of the tree’s yearly cycle in potential. It may take time and care to realize that potential (52 days for a grain of wheat; 70 years for a date-palm), but the potential is here now.

‘Man is unto toil born.’ When we undertake a new project, we must also confront the toil and time and effort that will have to go into it. It may well seem overwhelming. Before you keep an orchard, you will have to plant a seed. Before you plant a seed, you will have to select those of the best quality. Many will have to be sown, in the hope that one will take root in the earth. The land will have to be cleared, and the soil made clean; and then the field will have to be guarded from wildlife and birds (as mentioned in the Talmud, Zeroim). It is altogether a huge task.

Therefore, as soon as the sap begins to flow in the tree, a person is reminded about all that lies ahead, and shown the wonderful fruits his labors will bear, if he will carry out faithfully all that is incumbent upon him.

We take this wonderful fruit, and recite over it a blessing praising G‑d, the Creator and Master of the world. We try in particular to eat the fruits by which Eretz Yisroel is praised, “... the grape and the fig, the pomegranate, the olive and the honey-date,” reflecting upon the amazing fact that the Torah praises the Holy Land more for the fruit it produces, than for its having “the eyes of G‑d upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”

As we eat the fruit, we consider all that lies ahead. Now the decisions are to be made and the order of work established. Days and weeks and months will pass. There will be winds and rains; there will be birds and field-animals out to steal the seeds, and rob the farmer of his fruit before it ripens enough to perform a mitzvah of the Torah with it, or of the Sages, whose teachings are even more beloved than the words of the Torah. Days and nights will have to be devoted to saying Tehillim, praying that the rain should come at the right time, and in the right amount; that there should be good breezes, and nourishing dews, until the farmer will see the success of his labors.

The fruits of Tu B’Shevat symbolize all this. Just as we think about all the toil ahead, we are shown the fruits our labors will yield, and with this encouragement, we bless the Creator and Master of the world.

No special instruction is needed. The fruit is placed before us on the table. We behold it and bless G‑d. We acknowledge that He is our G‑d, the King of the Universe, the Aleph who creates and sustains the world. In our blessing we declare that by His Will the whole order of creation is brought into existence, and by His Will He creates this fruit we are about to enjoy. We make a berochah. Then it is a mitzvah to eat, not like a glutton, but out of respect for a Jewish custom, in a place of prayer and learning. When the proper amount is consumed, we say an after-berochah.

The Torah of life, an instruction in life, in having us make these blessings, is really making us aware that in potential everything is given to us already, absolutely perfect, down to the last detail; and because of this, we are able later to carry out successfully all that we must do.

The lesson from all this applies to a person’s daily service of G‑d. At the moment he awakens in the morning, before he has said “Modeh Ani” (which does not even contain one of the seven names of G‑d that may not be erased) — at that first moment of consciousness, he says “Modeh Ani” — “I give thanks unto You,” undertaking to serve G‑d with Kabbalos Ol — as the Alter Rebbe prescribes at the beginning of his Shulchan Aruch. He is immediately aware of being in the presence of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, and this inspires him to get up at once, to begin serving Hashem with an ever increasing vigor. He washes his hands, and begins reciting Berochos, using the Holy Names that should not be erased. He starts his day, going from the Bais Haknesses where he prays, to the Bais Medrash where he learns Torah; and then he finally engages in the proper conduct of his worldly affairs.

From the ‘Modeh Ani,’ which he says with all his soul, the whole day gets off to a vigorous and meaningful start.

The question, however, does arise, especially when put by “the Wise One” “Why not stay in bed a little longer? Let the day’s business wait just a bit?” To this one must reply, “I have set Hashem constantly before me!” A person must remember that he is lying in the presence of the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed be He. He sees, as it were, the Al-mighty before him, and realizes that in order for “the glory of Hashem to be revealed” everything depends on “our deeds and our service (now).” Nor can a person count on anyone else to mind the pot. Everything depends on himself alone. He says “Modeh Ani,” in the singular; “You gave me back my soul “in the singular.” It is this “Shivisi,” “I have placed Hashem before me,” that gives him the energy and vigor to carry out all that he must throughout the day, beginning with the first moment when he wakes up, even before he says “Modeh Ani.”

The question is, since it is still only the very beginning of the day, why must a person already get up with such hastiness and energy, as prescribed in Shulchan Aruch, “Not the dawn shall awaken me, but I shall awaken the dawn.”

He may well reason to himself, “It is still early. I will get up, and daven, and ask Hashem for ‘wisdom, understanding and knowledge.’ Then I will learn Torah, and with the help and blessing of Hashem, achieve the wondrous unity with G‑d, of which the Tanya speaks (ch. 5). Then, after all that, I will be ready to serve G‑d with ‘zrizus’ — energy.”

But no. He does not permit himself this self-deceit. Immediately upon awakening he undertakes “to awaken the dawn,” in actuality, not theory. His sleep-ridden body at once becomes animated with the greatest possible energy in anticipation of all that lies ahead.

Herein lies the lesson of Tu B’Shevat, placed there by G‑d in the terms that are easily understood for “a man is like a tree of the field.”

At the outset, in our service of G‑d, we do things ‘Lo Lishma’ — for an ulterior (or even incorrect) motive, in order to eat the fruits of our labor. “He who works the land will be satisfied with its bread.” He works for ‘the bread,’ an ulterior motive; but as Maimonides writes, through service for the wrong reason, for the sake of eating, a person will come to serve G‑d for the right reason, with no ulterior motive.

We are eating fruits here today, because last year on Tu B’Shevat, or 2 years ago, (or, in the case of a date-tree, 70 years ago), a decision and a commitment was made, with no reservations whatsoever, to make the potential come true.

Similarly, when a person awakens from sleep, there must be no holding back. He must remember that at this very moment, the whole day with its own particular challenge, is given to him in potential. He must summon all his strength to meet the challenge as it is now, in potential, in order to succeed to the fullest extent throughout the whole day. For along with the potential of the day, the merit and the blessing to succeed with joy and fullness of heart are also bestowed.

Everyday, when we awaken from sleep, it is similar to when the sap begins to flow in the trees, arousing themselves from the chill of winter.

Soon the seasons will bring us to summer, when the sun shines with full strength. Every season represents a stage in the life of man; and summer is a foretaste of the time to come, “when G‑d will remove the sun from its sheath, and bring healing to the righteous.” The Jewish people are all called righteous, and the illness that must be healed is the illness of the last days of exile, the illness of the Yetzer Horah.

The Arizal and the Rebbeim of Chabad write of illness in its spiritual sense. The word ‘Choleh’ — illness — has the numerical value of 49, corresponding to the 49 gates of understanding. When a Jew realizes that he has been granted comprehension of these 49 gates, he then learns what it means to be “sick for love of Thee,” and he cries with yearning, “When shall I be granted the 50th?”

Not only is every day similar in this respect to Tu B’Shevat, but every hour and every minute. Whether in the morning, at mid-day, or at night, when a person notices something in the world that pertains to him, that is part of “his lot in the world” — whether it is ‘a fruit,’ or another Jew in need of help, or something in himself that must be attended to, let him recall, “Man is unto toil born!”

He has been made to notice this ‘fruit’ in order for him to fulfill the saying, ‘I was created to serve my Maker,’ or even, ‘I was created solely to serve my Maker.’

The previous Rebbe, in the Ma’amar of Yud She-vat writes that, ‘No man knows his time.’ Let a person not procrastinate. One need not speak of tragedies. It is enough that G‑d renews every moment the act of Creation from absolute nothingness — and the unique service of that moment is created thereby. How can one procrastinate! The moment with its opportunities; will pass, and when the second moment comes it would be well if we at least accomplished then what we had to. Now the chance to help is ours. If we do not seize the opportunity, it will be given to another, for “G‑d has many messengers.”

Every day and every moment presents a Jew with a myriad of wondrous possibilities, to be realized as “his share in the world.” Each one brings about a “revelation of the glory of G‑d,” and many moments bring the vision of “and all flesh shall see together,” just as it was at Mt. Sinai, when the Torah was first given.

May it be the will of G‑d, that our intentions and words today should all be realized to their fullest potential; and may we speedily go with joy and fullness of heart to greet our righteous Moshiach, with true wealth in the spiritual sense, and with wealth in the material sense as well, speedily in our days.

2. In this week’s portion, parshas Yisro, we read of giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The world stood silent. No bird chirped. No ox lowed. Then, from all four directions, up and down, “Anochi” — ”I am,” was heard: “I am the L‑rd your G‑d” — ”your G‑d:” addressed to ‘you,’ in the singular, as an individual who had been delivered from the land of Egypt. Rashi explains that the reason and justification for “I am the L‑rd your G‑d” is precisely that “I took you out of the land of Egypt.”

The two concepts are thus fused in a wondrous unity. The greatness of the Creator is seen to be linked and unified with the Jewish people in general, and with each and every one of them as an individual.

It is crucially important to remember this when people say, Kein Ayin Harah, there are so many million Jews today in the world, what difference will it make if one more is born or not? Anyway, G‑d has provided that there will always be 600,000 Jews. Why all the fuss about having children?

The mitzvah is self-understood. It is clearly a good thing for the Jewish people. In the Torah itself, we are told “to fill the land” and “to conquer it” and there is plenty of commentary on this in the Talmud. But why make such a to-do about it? Let us simply do what we must, and leave things up to G‑d!”

The answer to this is clearly stated in the portion of this week, when we read that the Almighty proclaimed to every single Jewish soul, “I am the L‑rd your G‑d who took you out of the land of Egypt.”

This was said to every Jewish soul in the world. It was even said to the soul of the child to be born nine months from now. Then it was written down as the very first of the Ten Commandments. G‑d made it known even then, that in the year 5741, nine months hence, the same baby girl or boy would be born, to whom these words were first spoken.

Some Jewish man or woman will pass by and see the infant lying in its cradle, and think, “Here lies a child to whom G‑d Himself said, ‘I am the L‑rd your G‑d who took you out of the land of Egypt.’“

The Divine Chariot was there revealed. Moshe and Aharon and the 70 Elders were in attendance, along with the 60 myriads of Jews. Everyone heard, together with the birds and the oxen, how the Almighty spoke to the soul of the child to be born nine months from now, in the year 5741.

One need not be a scholar to understand this; nor does one need the parables of the Dubner Maggid to explain it. One need merely state the matter simply as it is set out in Chumash, just as it would be taught to a five year old child in class, or as it would be explained to him even before he had started Cheder.

The lesson of Tu B’Shevat is especially relevant here; for, when this ‘seed’ of a child is first born, he brings with him the ultimate perfection of his days — “all the toil he will strive to accomplish during his lifetime.” Together with this, the power is given to the parents and teachers of the child, to successfully raise and educate him (or her) in such a manner as to realize all of the potential of his or her life to the fullest degree, bringing ‘naches’ to the parents, the Bubba and the Zaida, to the whole Jewish people, and to G‑d Himself.

The saying of the Baal Shem Tov is well-known, that every Jew, no matter what his station in life, is to G‑d ‘a land of delight.’

Hashem, of course, wants us also to experience this pleasure, too, and to feel that we had some input, however small, in causing it to be; and He gives us the absolute assurance that “He who gives life, will also give food,” in addition to the fact that we thereby bring “Moshiach Now” a moment sooner.

Further, when a person realizes that his or her soul was present at Mt. Sinai when the Torah was given, then he must be sure to remember that the children were our guarantors. G‑d insisted that some guarantor be offered; and He was not satisfied until the children were offered.

Our Sages say, a person should constantly look up himself as if he had just been redeemed from Egypt, today! by “I am the L‑rd your G‑d who took you out of the land of Egypt.” This in turn is entirely owing to those guarantors, the children, for whose sake the Torah was given. Make no mistake. The Torah is eternal, for all times. A person has to know that when we say “our children are our guarantors” we mean our children. The baby to be born nine months from now was pledged at Mt. Sinai together with all the others.

The Torah was given in a manner of being “very near to you, in your mouth and heart to do it.” May we speedily merit to learn Torah from Moshiach Tzidkeinu, when all the souls are elicited from the Supernal ‘Body’ into real physical bodies.

And may all this be with joy and fullness of heart, even though we find ourselves in the darkness of exile. In Egypt, during the Plague of Darkess, ‘all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings,’ even those who had dealings with Egyptians; even those who had to be in Egyptian homes.

“As in the days when you went out from Egypt, I will show miracles.” If we allow ourselves to rely on G‑d, to be ‘tamim,’ sincere, and forthright, we will merit the light of Torah in our dwellings; and go out of Egypt with an upraised hand, “to serve G‑d on this mountain.”

3. Our children are our guarantors. It is almost midnight, and if we do not ply them with all kinds of sweets, or start asking them questions, they will go to sleep.

We should therefore sing, “We want Moshiach Now” and then go to greet Moshiach Now, with such joy that even an Englishman will see that it is Now!

4. A gathering for children in connection with Tu B’Shevat has been scheduled for tomorrow. It will be an excellent opportunity to make resolutions for the future, like true soldiers who go from strength to strength.

In particular it will be an auspicious time to increase in Torah learning and mitzvos, especially the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel, which we can do by helping our friends to enlist in Tzivos Hashem.

Normally, the army is not the place for girls. In a Milchomas Mitzvah, however an obligatory war, even a bride goes straight from her chupah to do her share. The war of today against the yetzer horah, is surely in this category. Girls, therefore, should certainly encourage their friends also to enroll in Tzivos Hashem. In addition, whatever possible should be done to encourage Jewish women and girls in lighting the candles of Shabbos and Yom Tov. Girls should also take an active role in learning Torah, as the Alter Rebbe explains at length.

At the Giving of Torah, the impurity of sin was removed from the world. To ensure that the Jewish people were properly prepared for this, Moshe was instructed to approach the women first, speaking to them in gentle terms, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob.” Only after that, was he to address the men, with a sterner speech.

Similarly, in building the Mishkan, the women were the first ones to come forward. The involvement of girls in Tzivos Hashem is no different. What they do prepares the way for the boys and makes their task easier to fulfill. Together, the boys and the girls are the best “guarantee” that Hashem requires, in order for the Torah to be given. In the year of Hakhel, moreover, it is a special mitzvah to bring children and even infants “to hear and to keep all the words of this Law.”

The gathering will surely be a beautiful event, with many boys and girls participating — each of whom will be “a fruit-tree bearing fruit,” by enlisting their friends in Tzivos Hashem.

And may G‑d bless the children with all their good resolutions, with increased blessing for health and success both materially and spiritually, in Torah learning and keeping mitzvos.

May they all lead us to greet Moshiach, with the girls in the first place, just as it was at Mt. Sinai and at the building of the Mishkan.

The previous Rebbe was once asked why it was that at the same time as he was shouting, “Teshuvah at once — redemption at once,” he was also making plans for building yeshivas that would take years to develop. Was this behavior not inconsistent? He replied, “It was always thus.”

We truly expect Moshiach now, but we also have the obligation to carry out our responsibilities as Jews in Exile, to the fullest of our strength and endeavor. By fulfilling our mission in exile — by enrolling children in Tzivos Hashem — we elicit the “Now” a second or a minute sooner.

“But really,” one asks “after 1900 years of exile, what difference will a rally make? or playing with children, and eating kosher candy, etc.?”

To a child this is no problem. We have only to explain to him that G‑d is always with us, even in our exile. That He is the King of Kings, the Holy One blessed be He. With Him there are thousands of servants, and myriads of ten thousands of angels before Him. He is in exile with us; and so are the countless numbers of thousands of angels. Every second of exile is thousands and myriads of seconds of exile for all these celestial beings.

If all the money of the Treasurer of the United States in Washington, were counted in pennies, it still wouldn’t be as much as the number of angels in exile.

Not only that, every extra second in exile, is a second that his mother and father, sister and brother, must also be in exile.

All the souls of all the Jews that ever were, or will be, are also kept in exile. When we were “exiled from our land,” there occurred a concealment of G‑dliness that affected every spiritual level of every spiritual world.

Even the most extraordinary people are affected by exile. It is said of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that he did not experience exile, because his spiritual level was so high that he transcended the destruction of the Temple. That is to say, spiritually, it did not affect him; but his behavior was affected. We can be sure he observed all the customs of mourning on Tisha B’Av. He went to Rome to plead for the annulment of decrees against the Jews. He had to conduct himself with personal restraint, and of course suffered the ‘exile within exile’ of 12 years hiding in the cave.

Similarly, we say that the name of G‑d, ‘Anochi’ is higher than Elokim, higher than Havayeh, higher than anything hinted in a letter or thorn atop a letter. Nonetheless, “Anochi” was exiled to Bavel; Anochi is with them in their suffering!

To shorten the exile by even one second is thus an incredibly great achievement, both in quantity and quality. No child would have a question about this, only a grown-up, whose intellect had beclouded the pure simple faith which a child possesses.

It’s not necessary to explain the superiority of children here. All they need to do is demonstrate it by following the mitzvah of honoring their father and mother. This will win over the hearts of their parents, and bring them to the level of “We shall do — and we shall learn” — Naaseh V’Nishmah — bringing all of us to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu Now, with joy and fullness of heart.