Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi
In this week's parasha of Beshalah, we are privy to one of the most action-packed parshiyot in our Torah. There is so much to speak of: the leaving of Egypt, the splitting of Yam Soof, the manna, amaleq and more! However, being that Tu Beshvat occurs this week Thursday, we are going to focus on a concept which ties to the "holiday of the trees".
In parashat Beshalah, Bnei Yisrael begins, what will later become, a forty year journey in the desert. Hashem begins to bless His nation with manna, "bread from the sky". According to the midrash, the manna was completely absorbed into the person's body and there was no need to ever go to the bathroom. The midrash also tells us that the manna had the potential to taste like any type of food.
A wondrous miracle. Yet, we can ask an obvious question: Why did Hashem send manna from the sky and did not simply create a miracle that the fruit grew from the desert itself? Surely Hashem could perform such a miracle! Why not create a miracle more close to reality, having he food come out of the ground (albeit dead dry sand), instead of having it fall from the sky?
Indeed there are many solutions to this question. However, in exploration of one of these answers we find a clear connection to Tu Beshvat. Our rabbis tell us that if the fruit grew from the desert ground, the fruit would be "impure" having being generated from the earth outside of Israel. Fruit grown in Israel have an inherent holiness that is passed to the fruit itself. Hashem needed to bring pure food for His holy people directly from the sky.
This is why after forty years, when Bnei Yisrael entered Israel, the manna ceased. For Hashem could have continued the miracle while Bnei Yisrael entered Israel, and the nation would have both manna and regularly grown food. But here lies the very point; once in Israel, the nation received the holiness in the food and no longer required the manna. [for those studious ones, this is why in the blessing "al Hamihyah" we say that Hashem shall take us to the land, to eat beqdousha oubetahara in holiness.]
We learn from here that the fruit represent an inherent connection between Bnei Yisrael and the holiness that Hashem is to bestow upon the nation. Though there is great Halakhic significance of the holiday of Tu Beshvat (the counting of the fruit of orlah, Netah Revai, tithes, etc.), there is also a great message that we can take from the holiday. The Torah compares a person to a tree (Deuteronomy 20,19), which the Gemara in Taanit (7a) interprets to mean that a Torah scholar must grow slowly and in the right way, yielding robust fruit. Just as a tree requires nourishment, watering, weeding, careful planning, etc. so too must a person learning Torah. Fruit will no simply grow overnight, and similarly one cannot fully understand Torah without spending the necessary time to toil with the books.
On this holiday of Tu Beshvat, we can reflect on the "fruit we are eating", the way we are learning. Are we rushing through our studies? Are we trying to learn Torah while on the go and not focused on what we are hearing? Barouch Hashem, in Ahaba VeAhva we are blessed with a rabbi who is the crown jewel of the domestic and international community, and many other teachers with various classes. We must use this opportunity to take advantage of these classes and make sure we produce great fruit in the future.