Tamar Dallal, Chicago, Illinois
Continuing in the theme of what all my Divrei Torah seem to be about—growth—I want to tell you about my youngest brother. He was born on Tu B’Shvat, the 15th of Shvat, and my parents finally decided after some back-and-forth to name him Erez (a cedar tree). He’s adorable, I miss him, and this year, he’ll turn eight years old. I’ll come back to this number eight.
Anyway, what’s so special about Tu B’Shvat? We don’t fast, we don’t have to clean our houses top to bottom (thank G-d), we don’t dress up in costumes… so what is it that we’re acknowledging?
Tu B’Shvat is the new year for trees. In fact, the mishna lists it as one of four Roshei Hashanah, along with Nissan, Elul, and Tishrei, for obvious reasons. Tu B’Shvat is a new beginning: trees begin to bud, or fruit begins to form, or sap begins to rise… different opinions. Welcome to Judaism. Either way, this marks the halfway point of winter. Most of the rain has already fallen; maybe God can give us a break on Thursday seminars.
Tu B’Shvat: the halfway point of winter, the beginning of a year, the end of a cycle around the sun for trees everywhere—and apparently, also a checkpoint for us. We’re halfway through the year already. It’s scary, but true.
My little brother is about to turn eight. While the number seven represents nature, teva, everything earthly, the number eight is one more than that. It’s above and beyond. It’s striving for more, it’s taking advantage, it’s using all the opportunities offered and using them as a springboard to something further.
Tu B’Shvat marks beginnings, halfways, and endings. It’s the halfway point in seminary, so let this be an ending of our first semester mindset and a beginning of our full commitment to learning more, understanding more, and, as always, growing more. And a happy birthday to Erez!