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Friday, February 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach / Tu BiShvat

Tu BiShvat always falls out within a week of Beshalach / Shabbas Shirah – on one side or the other. This year, of course, it falls out on the very day. Although this happened four years ago, it will not happen again for another ten years. What makes this occurrence extra special is that the two-a-day Mishnah Yomis cycle comes within 10 days of the completion of seder Zeraim. Although curiously Tu BiShvat is not mentioned at all in the entire seder mishnayos, it certainly figures in significantly as the new year with regards to most annual obligations relating to fruit. Surely, there must be a common thread which connects these events.

Immediately following the dramatic events at Yam Suf and the subsequent joyous song, we are told of the episode in which B'nei Yisrael complain to Moshe about the drinkability of the water. Moshe sweetens the water with a piece of wood shown to him by HaShem and they are soon on their way. Their very next stop is Eilim where, lo and behold, there are 12 springs of water and 70 [species of (see Ibn Ezra)] date trees. Dates, being from the seven primary fruit for which Eretz Yisrael is lauded, are subject to all of the laws including bikkurim, which is the topic of the last masechta in the seder. The commentaries discuss why the Torah goes to such lengths to describe the amenities at this venue. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that while we may find ourselves in difficult predicaments, wondering why and how and what can be done, HaShem's salvation is often right around the corner. Not only was there an abundance of fresh water but indulgent, sweet fruit as well.

As mentioned above, Tu BiShvat figures halachically as the start of the new year for trees. This is significant in regards to the law governing the separation of terumos and maasros, stating that one may not separate from this year's crop to fulfill the obligation on the previous year's and vice versa. As a possible explanation for this restriction, the very essence of all of these mitzvos is to appreciate the plentiful gifts that HaShem has bestowed upon us. At the very least, it is incumbent upon us to renew this appreciation yearly with each new crop. If one was to group his crops together from multiple years and attempt to fulfill both years' obligations at once, there would be a significant lacking in the individual appreciation for each year's crops.

While the highlights of the parsha may be the overt and spectacular miracles of the splitting of the sea and the manna, there are subtle hints to the more routine blessings from HaShem which are underscored on the new year that is Tu BiShvat.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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