The Sefer Yetziroh links the month of Shevat with
"le'ito," which means eating. This indicates that
Shevat was chosen from all the months to perfect kedushas
achilloh, which is also the foundation of Tu BeShevat.
What does "kedushas achilloh" mean? It mainly means
eating lesheim Shomayim. The challenge of eating is to
eat for the purpose of serving Hashem, and not for selfish
reasons, such as the food is enticing or appealing. The vast
variety in taste, texture and color is just a tool to bring
us to greater awareness of the endless lovingkindness Hashem
bestows upon us as reflected in the delectable delicacies in
their dazzling multiplicity that He provides us with
The first one who failed to meet this challenge was Odom
Horishon. The Torah relates that Hashem placed Odom in Gan
Eden, which was a garden of fruit trees. He was allowed to
eat from all the fruit trees except for one. The bottom line
of Odom's sin was that he ate from the forbidden fruit for a
selfish purpose, a purpose that was not Hashem's will. Then,
as part of his punishment, he forfeited the privilege of
getting his sole nourishment from fruit alone, as it states,
"ve'ochalto es eisev hasodeh" -- you will eat the grass of
the land (Bereishis 3,18). Odom had to eat pri
ho'adomoh because he destroyed the kedusha of the
fruit trees, which is on a higher spiritual level, so it
could not be his only provider of sustenance.
Odom cried to Hashem, "Ani vechamori nochal mei'eivus
echod?" -- Does this mean that I will be like my donkey
and we will share the same tray of earthy food?
Odom was concerned because he knew that every one of the
seven species of fruit that are associated with Eretz Yisroel
inspires and influences man in an exalted way. For example,
chitta is daas, giving us the ability to
differentiate between right and wrong. In Gan Eden, bread of
chitta grew in loaves on a tree. Odom feared that now
he would be deprived of his special attribute of daas
which set him apart from his donkey who has no
Therefore, Hashem explained, "Bezei'as apecho tochal
lechem." You will eat bread of chitta and retain
your special attribute of daas, but now it will first
grow in stalks like a weed and you will have to exert
yourself to prepare bread. As his spiritual grade declined,
his physical level of existence declined as well.
This explains the concept of Tu BeShevat as focused on
elevating fruit in particular. Because the original error was
destroying the high spiritual element in fruit, we now
attempt to restore the proper kedusha, especially to
the shivas haminim, to merit the situation we enjoyed
in Gan Eden previously.
Tu BeShevat is when we have to work on restoring the
kedusha to food and to eating for its proper purpose.
It is the Rosh Hashana for trees, marking the beginning of
the year regarding terumos and ma'asros.
However, the day when all fruit trees are judged is actually
Shavuos. It is on Shavuos that we brought the korbon
of Shtei Halechem made from chitta.
What is the connection? Kabolas HaTorah is called
"cheirus miyetzer hora" -- freedom from the yetzer
hora. When we received the Torah we initially returned to
the situation of Odom Horishon before his sin. The day on
which this happened is the day that the fruit trees are
judged to see if they are worthy of their purpose. The
korbon of Shtei Halechem is even proof that
bread once grew as the fruit of a tree. There is a gemora
in Kesuvos that says, "Asido chitta shetitamer
kedekel" (Kesuvos 111b). In the future, once again
chitta will grow like dates on a tree and we will pick
the loaves of bread like fruit.
How can we properly fulfill the requirement of the
tremendously opportune day of Tu BeShevat to perfect
kedushas achilloh? Can we honestly say that our sole
purpose in eating is to fulfill Hashem's will, with no
selfish enjoyment whatsoever?
The baalei mussar, many decades ago, were constantly
troubled by this prospect for a very valid reason. They found
sources in Chazal that say that when one enjoys this world,
he actually eats up his mitzvos.
The Chofetz Chaim illustrates the point with a devastating
A King had a servant from a family that had served the King
for many generations. One day the King decided to free this
family from their duties to him and to grant them their
independence. The servant then requested a salary for his
long history of steady service. Said the King, "Who supported
and provided for you and your family all these years? Take
into account housing, food, medical bills, education and
clothing -- and then see if your demands are justified."
When we take into consideration how many times we enjoy
breathing air every day, our homes, our health, our families,
our full refrigerators -- and all in such a beautiful setting
of an expansive, starry sky, flowers, trees, and background
music of birds chirping, it should worry us that perhaps we
are consuming all our mitzvos. Rav Yisroel Salanter used to
say that with one Shabbosdiga tzimmes we could eat up
our whole Olom Habo. The world is a very expensive
If this reality worried the great sages of the past, how much
more so should we be concerned, when the whole lifestyle
today revolves around enjoyment. The bread has to be fresh,
the clothing up-to-date, ice cream comes in 48 flavors, and
life has to be interesting and exciting or otherwise we are
In our generation, the greatest minds invest all their
talents in making life more enjoyable. A goy enjoys
Olom Hazeh because it is his Olom Habo as well.
Does this mean that we exchange our Olom Habo for
Olom Hazeh as well? How can we effectively preserve
our mitzvos to bring us the endless true reward in the World
HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt"l offers a solution. He
describes a similar situation, where he enjoyed delicious,
nutritious meals daily, as well as shelter, education and
many luxuries -- but he never got a bill and will never get
one. That was in his parents' home. Even as an adult he could
enter freely, help himself to all kinds of delicacies - - and
he was never charged for it and never will be.
Likewise, if we just spend one moment thinking and reflecting
about Whose world we are living in and enjoying, we will find
ourselves in our Tatti's home. Hashem will never send
you a bill.
How can we honestly place ourselves in Hashem's embrace?
Chazal say, "bemachshovoh isbariroh" -- the mind
clarifies and makes the selection.
So, how can we direct our minds to realize our true
Simply by investing a moment of concentration before making a
brochoh to refer all the impending enjoyment to its
correct Address. If we admit and appreciate that all the
things that we enjoy come directly from Hashem, then we
are actually at Hashem's table and we will never get a
bill. The mind clarifies and selects.
However, if we are so caught up in enjoying ourselves that we
have no time to make the brochoh properly, then we
forfeit the privilege of being in Hashem's company. If the
cake itself is what gives us enjoyment, then of course we
have to pay for it.
But if it is clear that we are enjoying Hashem Who gave it to
us, then it's all on Hashem. By utilizing machshovoh,
by thinking properly, we can eat at Hashem's table
bikedushoh and turn our tables to the service of
Hashem to merit mishulchon Govohah kozochu of eating
in an exalted manner while preserving our mitzvos to enjoy
The challenge is overcoming the yetzer hora who tries
to confound us by making our minds wander at the most
opportune time when making a brochoh. Tu BeShevat is
the time allocated to redirect our thoughts to the correct
Address, to find that we can enjoy the magnificent world with
its endless variety and simultaneously restore the kedusha
that was violated, so that we may once again merit Gan
Chazal teach us this habit, "Seuda shehano'osecho mimenu,
meshoch yodcho heimeno" -- if there is a meal that you
enjoy, pull your hand away from it. Many people mistakenly
think this means not to eat it. Tzadikim say it means
to stop for a second and use your machshovoh and not
just your hand.
Don't just "dig in" impulsively. Just as the physical
digestive system is a process of selection, sending each
individual component to its proper address, the spiritual
part of eating, which is enjoyment, must be referred to its
destination as well, with a moment of thought. Hashem gave us
the mitzva of brochos to help keep us on track. To
stop and appreciate Hashem's love and chesed in every
morsel of food, makes all the difference.
This is a habit to acquire in all aspects of mundane
activities as well. Before putting on a tie, stop and think
for a second: who created the multitude of colors that
decorate the tie so pleasingly? A person who trains himself
to think, can bring everything back to Hashem, transforming
insignificant physical entities to spiritual eternity.
Perhaps tzadikim -- once -- were able to eat
completely lesheim Shomayim, a most difficult
assignment in our days and never easy.
But in our generation we are blessed with endless
opportunities to refer gratitude and appreciation to our true
Benefactor, for the abundant wealth we enjoy. By doing so we
thereby reveal His Glory and fulfill our purpose as Am
Yisroel. The name Yisroel is comprised of the
words, shir (K)eil -- to sing the great praises of
Hashem. Bemachshovoh isbariroh -- if we stop and think
it will bring us back home to our Father's table.