How should we celebrate Tu B’shvat?
There was a minhag in Yerushalayim – I don’t know if they do it there today, but in the olden days there was a minhag that chachomim came together the night of Chamisha Asar B’shvat and they ate peiros. But eating is only a superficial act that is meant to awaken your mind to thinking thoughts of Hashem. Because that’s what fruit are for – to remind you about Hashem.
The gemara (Brachos 44a) says that Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish used to go out – it doesn’t say when, maybe it was on Purim, but they used to go out to Ginosar, and they would eat the fruit of the orchards there. And they ate so much until they almost fainted from overeating. Rabbi Yochanan ate so much that his forehead was slippery and even a fly couldn’t land on his forehead; it slipped off his forehead. Reish Lakish, it says there, ate so much that he became wild, almost drunk with happiness. Maybe it was grapes or something like that. Whatever it was, he was wild with thoughts of the chesed Hashem. And finally Rabbi Yochanan had to ask the Nasi to send policemen to take Reish Lakish home.
Now, we’re talking about great men and so we must understand that the gemara is telling us something here! We have to know that fruit are one of the wonderful creations of emunah. ונחמד העץ להשכיל – Fruit is most desirable because it brings wisdom (Bereishis 3:6). Look at a beautiful orange, or a beautiful apple. Why is the color so beautiful? Is it an accident? It wasn’t beautiful when the fruit was still green, when it was sour and unripe. Only when it became fit to eat, then it turned into a beautiful yellow or a beautiful red. Doesn’t that show something?! The fruit is trying to make you wise with Awareness of Hashem – every fruit is a demonstration of the chesed Hashem.
Tosfos explains in one place (Brachos 37a) what it means בורא נפשות רבות וחסרונן. It means that Hashem made many different creatures and supplied them with all of their needs. But in addition to that we add the words על כל מה שבראת להחיות בהם נפש כל חי – He also provided Mankind with luxuries, besides for the things they need. לתענוג בעלמא, he says, “Just for the purpose of giving us pleasure.” And what are the luxuries? Tosfos says כמו תפוחים, apples for example. You could get along without apples. Apples are like a dessert; they’re an extra chesed.
Now, the truth is that everything is chesed. The piece of bread is also chesed. But apples are an added chesed. Hashem is not merely satisfied that you shouldn’t be hungry. Let’s say a guest would come to your house to eat, would you give him just a big plate of bread? A pile of bread, a mountain of bread? No; you’ll give him something else as well, something to add to the bread. Some butter maybe or something. Whatever it is, something else you’re going to have to give him. You can’t give him just bread.
So let’s say you give him a meal. And since you have a good heart, after the meal you give him some dessert too. That shows that you’re a real ba’al chesed. And so Hakodosh Boruch Hu gives us fruit too; He’s giving us desserts all the time.
So when you pass a fruit stand, don’t walk by like a horse walks by. Take a look! Those delectable fruits are resplendent testimonies to the niflaos ha’Borei, the wonders of Hashem. A fruit is a miracle! Every fruit has a skin around it that protects it and keeps it fresh for some time. And inside when you finish eating the delicious content of the fruit, you find a coupon that entitles you to another package – the seed! You spit out that seed and it’s more niflaos ha’Borei. What that seed has inside it is remarkable! That seed contains more information than the most sophisticated computer!
And therefore you have to know that fruits are a wonderful opportunity to gain emunah and ahavas Hashem. And that’s how to eat fruit on Chamisha Asar B’Shvat. And that’s how you should be eating fruit all year long as well.
TAPE # 812 (November 1990)