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HAPPY NEW YEAR.....TREES? (Tonight is the 1st of Shvat)

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Did you know that trees have their own New Year celebration? That’s right! It is called TU (the 15th of) B’SHVAT. [TU represents the Hebrew letters ט (tet) and ו (vov) which numerica...lly are 9+6, which equals 15. In ancient Israel, trees were a vital part of the land. They provided sustenance, shade, fuel, and material for building. Today, we often see them merely as decorative and take them for granted. This day recalls the strong roots between our people and our Land.
TU B’SHVAT is mentioned more than two thousand years ago. Two Sages, Shammai and Hillel, even argued as to its appropriate date. Remember: this day is not mentioned in Scriptures, so someone had to decide. But, how do you choose a national birthday for trees? Shammai selected the 1st of Shvat. Hillel preferred the 15th of the month. The Talmud explains: Shammai’s date is when most of the year's rain had already fallen. Hillel’s day is when the trees actually blossom.
As with everything else Jewish, there is more than meets the eye. Shammai focuses on potential, Hillel on the actual. At the beginning of each Jewish month (Rosh Chodesh), the moon is nearly invisible, but it has potential. Fifteen days later the moon reaches its greatest actual size. Shammai’s New Year memorializes the rain’s fruit-growing potential. Hillel delays the New Year until the trees actually blossom. Shammai and Hillel represent more than agricultural milestones. They contain themes pertinent to every human being, potential versus actual.
During the first week of Creation, the sun and moon were equal. When G-d decreed that it diminish (Chulin 60b), it does not mean in size, (it was always smaller). Instead, each month it would suffer endless waxing and waning. On Rosh Chodesh an atonement offering for the moon’s reduced stature was brought to the Temple. This is significant. We need atonement for not fulfilling our potential, a shortcoming symbolized by the moon. Man’s challenge is to maximize his potential.
When G-d first appeared to Moses, He said, “Moshe Moshe.” In contrast to “AbrahamlAbraham” and “JacoblJacob” where a line is drawn in the Torah between the two names, there is no line between Moshes. The first name refers to the ideal person, his potential while still in Heaven, the second refers to the person stuck in this world. Only Moshe realized his full potential so that no line divided between the two mentions of his name.
Moshe’s unique ability to reach his potential was due to his unparalleled humility. This is why he, not Abraham or Jacob, brought Torah to the Jews. Hillel was famously humble. That is why he is determines actual Jewish law.
Shammai was sharper, (Yevamos 14a) and had greater potential, but in actuality Hillel was greater. Every person can be as righteous as Moses. (Rambam) This means that every person can reach his full potential. As the Chasidic master Reb Zusha said, we are each held accountable to the standard of our own potential - not more, but not less.
That only Moshe realized his full potential should itself be humbling. This Shvat we should renew our effort to narrow the line which separates our actuality from potential.

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