This week we celebrate the Yom Tov of Tu B’ishvat. The Mishna in Rosh Hashanah tells us that Tu B’ishvat is the New Year for trees. The minhag in Klal Yisroel is to eat on this day many different fruit, especially from the shivas haminim. The message is clear “ki haadam eitz hasadeh” man is compared to a tree, therefore his children and offspring are fruit of the tree. Let us apply this message of Tu B’ishvat as a mean and a way to be mechanech our children.
Fruit are so different and unique, yet each has its own beautiful quality, color, and taste. The grape grows in clusters on a vine, row after row, has one specific season, and harvest. The fig tree on the other hand is the exact opposite, no two fig fruit ripe simultaneously, its season is spread across the entire summer and its fruits grow in a wild manner throughout the tree. Pomegranates as we know have a tough bitter outer skin, but the inside are so fruity and sweet. The olive is a small bitter fruit but grows on a low tree, easy to reach. The fruit itself might be bitter, but when you squeeze it you are rewarded with pure clear oil. On the other hand, dates, grow on a tall high palm tree way out of reach but once you get to them you are rewarded with a juicy sweet fruit.
The similarity is quite obvious. Many children and students perform beautifully in a typical yeshiva system where their learning is predictable. And our tried and true curriculum is the key to their hatzalcha, just like grapes in a vineyard. It is therefore no coincidence that Chazal refer to a yeshiva as kerem, vineyard (e.g. kerem b’yavne). Yet we must realize there are other fruits as well, figs, tee’aina. They take some more time to bloom and ripen. (It is for this reason the Mishnah in ms. Peah writes that peah does not apply to figs because ain lekitaso keachas, they are not all gathered from the tree at one specific time.) These students need patience and understanding, and some more time for them to blossom and produce its beauty. But with proper care they give us nachas and fulfillment. As Shlomo Hamelech writes in Mishlei “notzer tee’aina yochal piryah” that one who watches and has the patience for the fig to ripen he will reap true nachas.
The list goes on and on, while some students might be hard to reach but once you penetrate that thick outer shell you are rewarded to see their true sweet yiddishe neshama. Others might need a little kvetch, (squeeze) and then, only then, will they produce a pure desire to learn and to achieve. The common thread is that all talmidim and children deserve their chance to thrive and to blossom with one important component. They must be connected to the tree, the “eitz chaim” our heilge Torah. We have to provide a comfortable and accepting environment for all types of talmidim. While parents and educators must overcome their personal stigmas, to recognize what their child needs most and which mosad is best suited for him/her.
On Tu B’ishvat we are mispallel for “peiros hailon” fruit of the trees. Let us daven for our own personal peirus, our beloved children that each and everyone shall burst forth and develop into his or her own beautiful personality, each one with their personal talents goals and aspirations. Let us present to Hakadosh Baruch Hu this beautiful basket of bikkurim made up of all different fruit and all together each one will be a source of nachas for Klal Yisroel.