Recent immigrants celebrate Tu Bishvat by planting trees in Yatir Forest near Arad in the 1990s.
(photo credit: JOE MALCOLM)
As Tu Bishvat approaches and we search classical Jewish sources for the roots and meaning of this much-loved (though minor) holiday, one particular Talmudic parable stands out: “When they were taking leave of one another, [Rav Nahman] said [to Rabbi Yitzhak]: ‘Master, give me a blessing.’ [Rabbi Yitzhak] said to him: ‘I will tell you a parable: A man was walking through a desert – hungry, tired, and thirsty – and he found a tree whose fruits were sweet and whose shade was pleasant and a stream of water flowed beneath it. He ate from the fruits of the tree, drank from the water in the stream and sat in the shade of the tree. And when the time came to take his leave, he said: Tree, tree, with what blessing shall I bless you? If I say may your fruits be sweet – your fruits are (already) sweet; [if I bless you] that your shade should be pleasant – your shade is already pleasant; that a stream of water should flow beneath you – a stream of water already flows beneath you. Rather, [I will bless you]: May it be God’s will that all saplings which they plant from you, be like you’ (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 5b-6a).