Category Archives: Tu-Bishvat

Secondary Source: Person is the Tree in the Field-MS,HS

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Secondary Source: Person is the Tree in the Field

Devarim 20:19

 דברים כ׳:י״ט:ג׳

Because a person is a tree of the field

 כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ ַשָּׂדֶה 
19. When you hold a siege on a city for many days, to wage war against it, to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Is the tree of the field a man, to go into the siege before you?  יט  כִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתָפְשָׂהּ לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר:


Rashi on Deuteronomy 20:19:3

 רש”י על דברים כ׳:י״ט:ג׳ 
For a person is the tree of the field. Behold “ki” serves as a language of ‘perhaps’: is a tree a person such that you should enter into a siege to afflict it with famine and drought like city residents? Why should you destroy it?  ג) כי האדם עץ השדה. הרי כי משמש בלשון דלמא שמא האדם עץ השדה להכנס בתוך המצור מפניך להתיסר ביסורי רעב וצמא כאנשי העיר, למה תשחיתנו: 


Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 20:19:1

אבן עזרא על דברים כ׳:י״ט:א׳
For a person is the tree of the field. A great Spanish grammarian said that a letter “hey” is missing, and so it is read like this: Is a tree a human? This explanation is incorrect in my eyes… In my opinion there is no need for all of this, and the explanation is as follows: “for you shall eat of it and not cut it down, for a person is the tree of the field” – the meaning is that a person’s life depends on the tree of the field [for food]…  א) כי האדם עץ השדה. ומדקדק גדול ספרדי אמר כי חסר ה”א וכן הוא הכי האדם עץ השדה וזה הטעם איננו נכון בעיני… ולפי דעתי שאין לנו צורך לכל זה וזה פירושו כי ממנו תאכל ואותו לא תכרות כי האדם עץ השדה והטעם כי חיי בן אדם הוא עץ השדה



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Growing Up

Dogs grow up fast.  I heard that one dog year is the same as seven human years.  If a dog lives to be 17 it is like he is 120 in human years.  Gigi, my dog, was born on March 7th, and every year we give him a special birthday treat to mark that date. But if our year is like seven years to him, maybe we should be giving him special treats more often – first on

March  7th, and then again on April 28th, and  then again on June 19th and so on.  Imagine having seven birthdays every year! Today I was thinking – if he is growing seven times faster, then maybe one day feels to him like a full week feels to us? Imagine if the sun only set once a week – seven days of sunlight in a row. No wonder he sleeps so much during the day! But all this thinking makes me curious – how old is he really?  Is age about the speed we grow up or about the how many years we have been alive?

“Shuli, what are you thinking about?”   Ari is sitting with me on the step. “I’ve been thinking about growing up.” I tell him. “It’s about time!” he replies. I laugh. “No not like that – I‘ve been thinking about what growing up feels like and its connection to time.” Ari looks interested. “Sometimes I wonder why some people grow up more slowly, and whether growing up is something we do or whether it just happens to us,” he said. “You mean like Dvir?” I ask him. Dvir is in our class but he doesn’t do the same work as the rest of us.  We take turns to help him. “Yes, I wonder what growing up feels like for him.”  “Good question” I say, “we should ask him.”

Tal comes and joins us on the step.  “Why do we say “growing up” anyway? “, she asks. “Maybe some things grow down – like mountains, or pebbles in a stream, or even problems. The older they are the smaller they get “. “You mean they start out big and rough and end up smaller and more refined.” Ari says, finishing off her thought.  Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself that maybe it isn’t so clear with problems – sometimes they grow bigger over time, not smaller.

“Trees are in between – they grow up and grow down at the same time”, Tal continues, “I wonder if the roots start growing down every spring at the same time new shoots are growing upwards?”  “Imagine celebrating Tu’Bishvat each year not as the time trees send out new shoots and blossom, but as the time they send out new roots?” I add. “We’d all be told to come to school dressed in brown clothes with tree roots in our hair.” Ari would really like that!

Ari and Tal go inside but I stay sitting on the step. I’m still thinking.

I’m thinking that growing up is also like walking backwards. Walking backwards on the beach you can see where you’ve come from by looking at your footprints, but you don’t know exactly where your feet will be next.  That is how I feel in life – all the things that have happened to me up until now and all my memories tell me who I am now –  but  I am not exactly sure who I will be tomorrow.  An almond tree will grow up to be an almond tree, but I could grow up to be anything.

Activity: Neighborhood Trail-PS

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Activity: Neighborhood Trail

  1. Walk around your neighborhood block.
  2. Point our all the different types of things you can see that grow bigger as they grow older
  3. Point out all the different types of things that you see that grow up as they grow older
  4. Point out all the kinds of trees you see that bear fruit that we can eat.
  5. Pick one interesting example of each. Tell us about it.
    • (If you are able to take photographs of these things, then pick one to share).

Leading Idea: Growth as the Realization of Potential

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Leading Idea: Growth as the Realization of Potential

Another way of thinking about growth is as self-actualization – the realization of inner potential. This idea is also linked to Tu Bishvat. Situated at the midpoint of winter, Tu Bishvat is seen to symbolically mark the transition in trees from a period of dormancy to one of growth (and the coming of spring) in which they come to ‘realize their potential’ by sending out new growth, flowers and producing the next year’s fruits. This concept of growth as the realization of potential has led Tu Bishvat to be symbolically linked to such diverse endeavors as education (the laying of corner tones of universities), the building of Israel as nation and as a time to attend to our spiritual growth as human beings.

Discussion Plan: Growing Up and Growing Old

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Discussion Plan: Growing Up and Growing Old

  • Do you celebrate your birthday? If so, what exactly are you celebrating?
  • If we didn’t have time (days, months, years), would we still get older? Would we grow up?
  • As we grow older, do our memories grow older?
  • As we grow older, do our thoughts grow older?
  • If we had a magic lotion that stopped us aging, would we still grow older each year?
  • Is it possible that some things become smaller as they grow older? (can you give an example?)
  • Could you grow older without growing up?
  • What is the difference between growing up and growing older?

Discussion Plan: Growth and Identity

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Discussion Plan: Growth and Identity

  • Could you grow if you didn’t have any food?
  • Could you grow if you didn’t have any ideas?
  • Could you grow if you didn’t have the ability to change?
  • Are you the same person today as you were when you were 2 years old?
  • Are there some things about us that don’t change as we grow older?
  • Are there some things about us that don’t change as we grow up?
  • Can we know who we will become?

Exercise: Which of these things grow?

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Exercise: Which of these things grow?

Which of these things Grow? Grow bigger Grow older Grow up Don’t Grow Something else If you said they grow, how? If you said they don’t grow, why not?
Dried flowers
Your legs
Characters in a story
Eggs in a nest
The wind
Your temper
Your mind

Leading Idea: Growth and the Passage of Time

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Leading Idea: Growth and the Passage of Time

TuBishvat marks the ‘Birthday of trees’ – but what is it marking? Is it marking the tree’s age or the tree’s growth? In the case of trees, a tree is considered one year old on TuBishvat, even if it is planted a week before TuBishvat. This is important in Jewish law and tradition for determining when the fruit of a tree can first be eaten (fruit that ripens in its fourth year – that is, after its third Tu’Bishvat), and laws of shmitah (sabbatical year when the fruit is not harvested). Other meaning is derived from the time of year in which TuBishvat occurs – and this links it to the concept of growth. TuBishvat actually falls at the midpoint of winter – as spring approaches and the sap in trees begins to flow and trees begin to bud and flower. TuBishvat thus comes to mark a change from being in a state of latency to one of reneed growth.

Each year we get a year older – but how is this connected to growing up? When we talk about ‘growing up’, there are several ideas we might have in mind:

  • Growing up as getting older – the passage of time. Last year I was 8 and now I am 9 years old.
  • Growing up as physical development – growing physiologically from immature to mature. In children we generally also associate this with growing bigger. In older people we
  • Growing up as cognitive maturity – growing up as becoming wiser, more nuanced in our understanding of the world. Telling someone to ‘grow up’ in this sense is to tell them to act with more maturity.

Finally, does everything get older over time? Are there some things that don’t age or grow even as time passes?

Secondary Sources: Honi the Circle Maker & Shimon bar Yochai

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Honi the Circle Maker

Once while Honi HaMa’agal (the circle-maker) was walking down the road, he saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked, “How many years will it take for this tree to bear fruit” The man answered that it would take 70 years. Honi said, “Are you so healthy that you expect to live that long to enjoy its fruit?” The man answered, “I found a fruitful world, because those who lived before me planted trees for me. In the same way, I shall do this for my children.”

( Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 23a)

Shimon bar Yochai

Shimon bar Yochai: “if you are holding a sapling in your hand and someone says that the Messiah has drawn near, first plant the sapling, and then go and greet the Messiah.”   Avot d’Rebbe Natan 31b