The New Year for Trees

Even before we see the leaves, flowers or fruit appear on the trees, there is lots of invisible activity going on behind the scene. In Israel, on the first day of Shvat, all the excitement begins. Water and nutrients from the ground begin heading up the tree through the roots and growth begins. On the fifteenth day of the month, one already begins to see the results as the small buds begin to appear.

The Beis Shamai say that the new year for trees is on the first day of Shvat, since that’s when growth actually begins. The Beis Hillel say that the new year for trees is on the fifteenth day since it’s first on this day that the growth can be detected by the observer.

A human is compared to a tree as the posuk says ” Ki ho’odom eitz ha’sodeh.” When we plant a seed in the ground we don’t notice anything happening for quite some time. It’s only after a while that it pops its antenna out of the ground and turns into a beautiful plant, that we realize that something amazing has happened. The Gemorah in Taanis compares a young rabbinical student to a seed planted in the ground. Sometimes his rebbayim and teachers put in lots of hard work but don’t seem to see any results. It’s only much later, as the young child emerges, blossoms and develops into a very special person that we come to realize how every bit of hard work and energy put in, did not go to waste.

The Beis Shamai say that what counts is the very beginning and so at the age of three when we begin teaching the child the Alef Bais we celebrate. The Beis Hillel however say that we must wait for the results to become visible and so we celebrate the child’s Bar Mitzvah.