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29 Teves 5761 - January 24, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Tu BeShevat -- A Tikkun for Eating the Eitz HaDaas

by HaRav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Shapira

Part I

This is the first of a three-part essay that explains many important and deep concepts that underlie the "minor" holiday of Tu BeShevat.

The Targum Sheini on Megillas Esther relates how Shimshi the scribe cast lots for Haman to enable him to decide in which month he would kill the Jews. The lot would not fall on Shevat, writes the Targum Sheini, since the Rosh Hashanah for Trees occurs in it. The Tur Barekes (par. 572) writes (notwithstanding the fact that the Targum Sheini seems to be offering a different explanation), "Although the Targum Sheini is explaining according to Beis Shamai [whose opinion is that the Rosh Hashanah for Trees is on 1 Shevat], and not as we rule [that it is on 15 Shevat], we learn that through the zechus of this rosh hashanah the lot did not fall on Shevat. That month was not chosen as the month to kill the Jews."

This needs to be explained. Chazal write that Haman's power increased during Mordechai and Esther's period either because the Jews enjoyed King Achashverosh's feast or because of other reasons explicitly mentioned in the gemora (Megilla 12). From the Targum Sheini we understand that the zechus of Tu BeShevat, the Rosh Hashanah for Trees, ultimately prevented Haman, the descendent of Amolek, from destroying Am Yisroel. What is the special significance of the Rosh Hashanah for Trees? How could it frustrate Amolek's ascent to authority?

The Chidushei HaRim zt'l (in the Sefer HaZechus) writes, "One can discern which chidushei Torah were said by someone before Tu BeShevat and which afterwards. During Shevat, Heaven allots a Jew the chidushei Torah that he will innovate during the whole year. `In the eleventh month . . . beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moav, Moshe began to explain this Torah, saying . . .' (Devorim 1:3,5). Since the Torah enumerated the eleventh month [the Torah counts Nisan as the first month, therefore Shevat is the eleventh] as when Moshe began explaining the Torah, even today the wellsprings of Torah open during that month for every Jew." (See also the Romosayim Tzofim on this subject).

In the same way, the gaon of Kozheglov zt'l (in Shut Eretz HaTzvi II:344) comments in the name of the Sochatchover Rebbe, the author of the Avnei Nezer, "On every year after Tu BeShevat one feels a change in his chidushei Torah, since the Rosh Hashanah for trees mainly alludes to chidushei Torah."

We will later give the Chidushei HaRim's interpretation in full and try to explain it, with Hashem's help, to the best of our capability, although that is admittedly insufficient.

In the seforim hakedoshim we find a connection between the mitzvah of arba minim performed during Sukkos and Tu BeShevat. The Yofeh LaLev writes, "One should make jam out of the esrog after performing the mitzvah with it and serve the jam on the night of Tu BeShevat, the Rosh Hashanah for Trees, among the other fruits that the family will make a brocho on. Eating from it is of great value both for a pregnant woman and for a woman having difficulty giving birth. It helps the child emerge easily without any suffering and later live a good and peaceful life."

But what is the relationship between the mitzvah of esrog and Tu BeShevat? What is the secret of the esrog's special power on Tu BeShevat for these women?

The Bnei Yissoschor (Shevat, 2:2) cites another link between Tu BeShevat and the arba minim: "A person should pray on Tu BeShevat to find a kosher, beautiful, and mehudar esrog with which to fulfill the mitzvah." (He details his reason there.) The Ben Ish Chai composed a special tefillah for "the entire arba minim" to be said on Tu BeShevat. The tefillah asks, "May Hashem help us to fulfill this mitzvah of lulav, hadas, arovoh, and esrog properly on Sukkos." [Kashrus Arbaas Minim writes a wonderful allusion to the connection between Tu BeShevat and Sukkos. The gematria of chamishah osor BeShevat is exactly the same as lechavein al esrog, lulav, hadas, arovoh -- that we should concentrate in our tefillos to ask for the four minim.]

In the continuation of this article, with Hashem's help, we will analyze this connection. First, we will discuss the special essence of Tu BeShevat as distinct from the other roshei shonim.

Tu BeShevat's distinct quality, which separates it from other roshei shonim mentioned in the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1), is that on it we act in some ways as if it were a Yom Tov: we do not say tachanun at Shacharis and Minchoh; we do not eulogize the dead; and when it falls on Shabbos we do not say Av Horachamim. We are likewise accustomed to eat many fruits of Eretz Yisroel, and we try to eat a new fruit on which to make a shehecheyonu because it is the Rosh Hashanah for Trees.

Why is this day more exceptional than 1 Elul, the Rosh Hashanah for ma'aser beheimoh? On 1 Elul we do not do anything special. What is the difference between ma'aser of beheimos and ma'aser of peiros?

One of the explanations offered in the seforim hakedoshim is that Tu BeShevat is a special time for tefillah and din for the trees. HaKodosh Boruch Hu always acts in the following manner: at the beginning of each creature's growth He surveys its future. At that time -- the time of din for that creature -- it is naturally fitting to pray for its success. Since the Torah likens man to "a tree of the field," this day is a sort of yom din for man too.

The Jewish Nation's nature is to be cheerful on a day of din. Whatever the verdict will be, it does not matter as long as everyone sees justice being done in the world and that a Judge rules over the world. Then, since Yisroel love din, they are vindicated from any punishment.

In fact, the entire special significance of Tu BeShevat in comparison to other roshei shonim lies in that a person is likened to a tree: "For man is a tree of the field, [so should he] be besieged by you?" (Devorim 20:19).

R' Chaim Vital cites in the name of his rebbe, the Ari z'l ,that he instituted a custom of eating thirty different fruits on Tu BeShevat. This had hidden significance in the hands of such an odom godol, and it could remedy the sin of Odom Horishon, who sinned through the fruit of Eitz Hadaas. Although the full impact of this is beyond our understanding, we see at any rate that Tu BeShevat is unique in that it alleviates the sin of the Eitz Hadaas (see the Pri Yitzchok, who discusses special meanings of Tu BeShevat). We will try now to explain this as best as we can.

Eitz HaDaas and Eitz Hasodeh

The origin of the saying that a person is compared to a tree is the posuk "For man is a tree of the field, [so should he] be besieged by you?" The gemora (in Taanis 7a) asks, "Is man a tree of the field?" The Maharsha (ibid.) explains that the gemora's lesson from the posuk ("if he is a proper talmid chochom you should learn from him and not destroy him") is a drash.

I believe that the adage is really derived from the nature of Odom Horishon's sin. To explain this deeply, I will first explain Odom's sin of eating from the Eitz Hadaas.

The Nefesh HaChaim (1:6, in note) when discussing Odom Horishon's sin writes: "Undoubtedly before the sin, Odom had full free choice . . . since that is the objective of the whole Creation. Nevertheless, his ability to choose how to act was not because he possessed an innate power of evil [that he had to overcome]. This could not be, because Odom Horishon was absolutely upright . . . He had free choice just as a person has free choice whether to walk into fire . . . After Odom's sin the power of evil actually became mixed within him, and from that day on there was great chaos in what he does. All of man's acts had become muddled and fluctuated excessively -- sometimes good, sometimes bad -- always changing from good to evil and back from evil to good. When a person is brought before Hashem to be judged, endless reckoning is made on every detail of his acts, speech, thoughts, and behavior, in order to discern their inclination. This is what is written in Koheles (7:29) `Behold, this only have I found, that Hashem made man upright; but they [by their sinning] have sought out many reckonings.'

"This condition [of evil being incorporated within a person, unlike the pre-sin stage when it was something external] continued until, as Chazal write, bnei Yisroel received the Torah and the zuhamoh (filth) ceased from within them. Afterwards, during the cheit ho'eigel, the Satan came and perplexed them -- meaning that it came from outside them just as with the sin of Odom Horishon. Evil had been driven out from within them, but through the cheit ho'eigel the zuhamoh returned and became mixed within them as beforehand."

Our Sages taught us that Odom Horishon's free choice before his sin was between truth and falsehood and not between good and evil. He did not discern evil as a reality at all since he clearly knew that evil was only falsehood and fantasy while truth was the absolute reality. One thing Odom did know about evil: if he ate from the Eitz Hadaas he would be able to discern the essence of evil.

This is what HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzatto (in Daas Tevunos) writes: Odom Horishon knew about good and evil, i.e., he knew that by eating this fruit he would later discern good and evil.

The Ari z'l explained that Odom Horishon wanted to make a horo'as sho'oh (a one-time exception) of doing a sin "for the sake of Heaven." He wanted to increase his power of free choice by descending to a lower level. He reasoned that in this way he could increase Heaven's honor by withstanding temptation while the glory of the Shechinah was hidden deeply away from him. Odom Horishon had no inkling of the difficulty he would later have in overcoming temptation when he was tested after eating from the Eitz Hadaas. He was unable to evaluate what his condition would be after eating the fruit.

His sin was that despite all his intentions he should not have rebelled against Hashem's command -- "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against Hashem" (Mishlei 21:30). Any thought to the effect that a person can do differently from Hashem's will but can still benefit by doing so, results from a lack of clear knowledge of His uniqueness. A person must serve Hashem by annulling his own will and accept Hashem's commands simply without making any calculations.

End of Part I

HaRav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Shapira is the author of Chazon LaMoed and mashgiach of Chevron Yeshiva, Geulah, Yerushalayim.

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