When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God.
The concept within Judaism of the “New Year of the Trees” comes from the verses above. The idea is to plant new trees on Tu b’Shevat, so that it can be easily calculated when they will be considered a source of food for the nation and abroad. But what does this have to do with you and I? What spiritual application can we get from Tu b’Shevat?
In the Bible we find that men are often times compared to trees:
For Man is a tree of the field.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the Torah of Hashem,
and on his Torah he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
In the NT, we see that Yeshua healed a blind man, but before his sight was fully restored, he sees something very interesting:
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Yeshua laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Yeshua also describes us in terms of a branch on a vine.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Paul uses the analogy of grafting to describe those who were formerly Gentiles being attached to the Tree of Israel, whose root is the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Hashem Elohim.
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Hashem speaks to us through parables, nature. Everything in the physical realm declares His glory. Everything is here to teach us something about Him, and something about ourselves. I believe the root of Israel is the faith of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their faith in Hashem became the source of the nation’s strength. It is the source we always go back to in order to gain strength for us to keep growing and bearing fruit.
But just as there is a time to sow, and plant, there is also a time to reap and gather the fruits. Why does the Word compare men to trees? What can we learn from this? Every good tree bears good fruit, but every good tree needs time to train up, to discipline through pruning, so that the tree will be healthy and bear much fruit.
I found this on a pruning site and thought it was so interesting how it explains the nature of a fruit tree correlates to the command in Leviticus 19:23-25:
Prune bearing trees to maintain a balance between vegetative growth and fruit production. The first three years should be spent on training only, but by the fourth and fifth years, the trees can be allowed to produce a light crop.
The first three years, any fruit that appeared on the tree was not considered food. The fourth year, all the fruit was to be consecrated to the LORD; it was to be taken to the Temple for the priests. The fifth year, the fruit could be harvested and sold for profit of the owner and benefit to the buyer.
As I see it, our faith in Hashem, especially those of us coming into the Torah life should be seen in the way of a newly planted tree. The first three years of our walk should be committed to training and instruction in righteousness through the understanding of the knowledge of foundational Torah concepts. We should not seek to teach others in any great capacity, for we are ourselves still learning, and as I am sure many reading this will know, our understanding in the first three years will be constantly shifted ever so slightly in order to grow us up and mature us in our faith, so that we will eventually be able to teach others.
The fourth year, is when we consecrate our lives to service of Hashem, this is when we should be seeking Him as to what He would have us do for the Kingdom. This is when we should be pursuing the discovery of any and all of our gifts, our strengths and weaknesses, and work on any and all character flaws that could hinder proper fruit bearing.
The fifth year is when we can confidently move into our calling, knowing that if we’ve allowed for proper training, we will be fruitful and will be able to handle the weight of responsibility that comes with what Hashem has called us to do.
In the end as was in the beginning of time, there is a tree that’s fruit is for food and its leaves for the healing of the nations. I believe that we are to make it our aim to mirror the Tree of Life in our own walk of faith:
And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of Elohim and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of Elohim and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for Hashem Elohim will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
My encouragement to all of you, my lovely readers, is this: take the time to be trained and disciplined by the Word. When you’ve gained a solid grasp of essential concepts, wait for Hashem to make your calling clear, and then when He has given you all you need to bless others, you can walk in that calling in complete confidence that you are right where Hashem wants you. And when you are right where Hashem wants you, you will bring food and healing–LIFE–to all who desire it.