The Zohar/Rav Brandwein Writings
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A Maamar for Tu Beshvat (the 15th of Shevat)
Rabbi Avraham Brandwein of Yerushalayim, 5764
In the Mishna of Tractate Rosh Hashanah, Chapter 1, it says, “On the first of (the Hebrew month of) Shevat, it is Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) for the tree (Ilan). (This is the view of) Bais Shammai. Bais Hillel says (that the New year for trees is) on the 15th (of the month).”
It is a custom in Judaism and especially by Chassidic Rebbies and Chassidim to have a special meal in honor of the 15th of Shevat, where they eat from the (types of) fruits of the Land of Israel. The New Year of the tree is also connected to mankind. This is based on the verse, “For man is the tree of the field.” We also find a connection between man and the tree by the blessing on the trees (when the fruit blossoms appear in the spring), where the blessing is, “He who created good trees and good creatures (people).”
There is a great similarity between a man and a tree, and we will bring many of the examples.
By the creation of man it is written, “And Hashem Elokim formed man from the dust of the earth, therefore he is called Adam (Man) from the term Adamah (Earth). In order for the ground to be fruitful, it is necessary to work it, to remove the thorns, to plow, to sow, and to water. So too by a person; in order to ascend spiritual steps and levels one needs to work on their Middos (character traits). Removing the thorns refers to distancing oneself from bad Middos. Plowing symbolizes that just as one plows the ground and turns over the external layer of the ground, within which it is impossible to plant, for (the external layer) is the level of the ground which Hashem cursed. Plowing reveals (the ground’s) inner layer, in order to convert it into a field, which Hashem has blessed. (See the book Or HaBahir (written by Rabbi Ashlag), under the heading “Plowing.”) Likewise, a person needs to convert their bad Middos into good Middos, to attach oneself to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and to emulate Him, as it is written, “I will emulate the Supernal” (Yeshaya 14). Planting (symbolizes what) Chazal teach on the verse, (Koheles 11,6), “In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not rest your hand.” Rabbi Akiva says that one who learns Torah in their youth will not set it aside in their old age. Watering (is accomplished) through Torah, which is compared to water. Furthermore, through Mitzvos and good deeds, the person develops and is converted from a non-fruit-bearing tree to a tree, which produces fruit. Just as a tree requires an environment to develop, i.e. nutrient rich soil and proper weather, so too a person requires a good company of friends, in order to spiritually develop. Just as with a tree that is old and crooked, it is hard to straighten it out, so too a person is able to develop and change, primarily when they are still young, as is written (Aichah 3), “It is good for a man to carry a yoke in his youth.”
What is the meaning of a tree?
It is brought in the book Matan Torah (by Rabbi Ashlag), in the Maamar on Freedom, that the “nature” of a person, i.e. “the first matter” (hyle, primeval matter), that they receive from their father, and their father from his fathers, is “the desire to receive.” Furthermore, the difference between the father and the son is only in (the) “form” (which that “first matter” takes). An example (can be taken) from a plant, since after a wheat kernel is planted, its “form” disintegrates, but its “nature” remains. Therefore, from this seed will (only) sprout new wheat, but not an apple. The difference between the seed kernel and what sprouts is that their “forms” differ from one another, and at times, even from lean wheat can come fat wheat; but the “inner nature” always remains. (This is as we find in Chazal Sanhedrin page 90b, “If a wheat kernel is buried naked, and it comes out with many garments (many kernels of wheat), Tzaddikim, who are buried in their garments, how much more so. This “nature” is the “essence”, which does not change, and it is the “first matter”, which is called “the desire to receive.”
So too by a person, their father passes on to them the “nature” of the spiritual character which they have, but the “form” for that character is given by the son. For example, if one inherits from their father the tendency towards stubbornness and persistence, it is possible that the father enclothed this “nature” for physical needs. However, the son might enclothe the “nature” for holy things, and give it a valuable, positive form. So the “nature” remains and only the “form” changes. This is as we find in Chazal, that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said to his son to go receive a blessing from the Sages, since they are Masters of “Form”, (see Tractate Moaid Katan page 9)
Bone – Wisdom (Chochmah)
One of the designations of the ten Sefiros as is brought in the writings of the Arizal is brains (and marrow), bones, sinews, flesh, and skin, corresponding to Kesser, Chochmah, Binah, Tiferes and Malchus. Kesser is brains. Chochmah is bones, since Wisdom is the “nature” of the “first matter” of creation, which is “the desire to receive” and Wisdom is the main thing. Just as the bones are the skeleton and the main thing set in the body of a person, while the additions are the flesh, in various amounts, so too the “first matter”, which is defined as “the desire to receive,” it is set, only the “forms” change, according to the direction of the aspirations of each person, and according to the influence of the environment. Likewise, in the Maamar on Freedom, mentioned above, it describes the “first matter,” which is “the desire to receive,” by the term “Matsa” (Mem Tzaddik Ayin) which is the first “foundation”, which is the “base”, from the verse, “For the “base” is too narrow to stretch out on,” (Yeshaya 28). “Matsa” is also the letters for the word Etzem (bone) (Ayin Tzaddik Mem).
According to the above, it seems that Eitz (tree), (Ayin Tzaddik), comes from the word Etzem (bone), which is the “first matter”, which is called “the desire to receive”, which one needs to develop and to acquire its proper “form”.
Eitz is numerically equal to 161, when including the One (160 +1).
The name Ekyeh (Aleph Hay Yud Hay) (literally, “I will be” represents the future, as it is written in the Holy Zohar (Part III, 65b), “I am prepared for birth and to be revealed.” The name Ekyeh, when “filled”, (when the word’s letters are themselves spelled out), (as Aleph, Lamed, Pay, Hay, Yud, Yud, Vav, Daled, Hay, Yud,) the Gematria (numerical value) is 161. According to what we wrote above, Eitz comes from the term bones, which is the “first matter”, which still lacks “form”, but in the future, its “form” will be revealed. This is the hint in that it has the same Gematria as the name Ekyeh, which represents the future.
Three types of trees:
Non-fruit-bearing trees, fruit-bearing trees, and fruit-bearing trees whose wood and fruit taste the same.
It is written, (Bereishis 1, 11), “1) The land should sprout vegetation, 2) plants which produce seed, 3) fruit trees which produce fruit of its kind, and Rashi explains that a fruit tree would have the same taste as its fruit. Therefore, when man was cursed for his sin, even the fruit tree was remembered for its sin, and was cursed.”
We need to understand, what is the great virtue that the taste of the wood be the same as the taste of the fruit? Either way, if it is the same taste as the fruit, why do you need the fruit, and if there is a taste of the fruit, why do you need the wood?
It is brought in the introduction to the Zohar, written by our Master the Baal HaSulam (Rabbi Ashlag), may the Tzaddik be remembered for a blessing, that there are four divisions, (developmental levels), within the development of “the desire to receive.” The first is “the desire to receive” “on the condition” of receiving for oneself. Within this division there are two stages. The first stage is “the desire to receive” the physical. The second stage is “the desire to receive” the spiritual. Both of them are under the designation of being “not for the sake of Hashem.” The first is “not for its sake” (totally self-centered) and is a poison, while the second is “not for its sake”, but from which one comes to “for its sake”. The third division is the work in Torah and Mitzvos “for the sake of Hashem”, this means for the purpose of giving (emanating), and not to receive a reward. This work purifies “the desire to receive for oneself” and converts it into a “desire to give”. This is called “a desire to give” “on the condition” of giving.” The fourth division is the highest level, which is “to receive” “on the condition” of giving.
Here is the place to explain, that the main point, which establishes the value of the “desire to receive” is the “on the condition” (the terms under which a person is willing to receive or give), since the term “desire to receive”, by itself, is abstract, and it is impossible to evaluate it as good or evil. But the “on the condition” (terms) establish its value. This means that if the “desire to receive” is to “give for the sake of receiving” (to do for others, for the purpose of getting something in return), then even this giving is a selfish receiving, as Chazal teach on the verse, “Kindness (done by) the Nations is a sin; (since) whatever they do, they do for themselves.” So too, if the “desire to receive” is for the sake of giving, then the “desire to receive” is giving.
In the Holy Or Hachaim on Parshas Bereishis (1:12) it is brought, and these are his words, “The earth became wise and produced three categories of trees, which were heard in the words of Hashem, due to the earth’s enthusiasm. The first are the trees that produce fruit, but their wood does not taste like the fruit. The second produces fruit, and its wood tastes like the fruit, and it is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which our Sages say, (Bereishis Rabbah 15:7) that its wood tasted like its fruit. The third is the tree, which is similar to a fruit tree, and they are the non-fruit-bearing trees. The land rushed to do all that it heard (from Hashem). This concludes his words.”
According to all of the above, it is possible to understand the three types of trees, which are brought in the Holy Or Hachaim. The first are the non-fruit-bearing trees. This is the tree which only “receives for the sake of receiving for itself”, but it does not produce fruit. The second is the tree, which produces fruit; this is the “desire to give for the sake of giving”, since a fruit represents giving to another, as one gets pleasure from its fruits. This is a tree, which produces fruit. The third is the fruit-bearing tree, where the taste of the tree and fruit are the same. This is to “receive for the sake of giving”, since the “desire to receive” is the “tree”, and the “fruit” is the “desire to give”. A tree whose taste is the same as its fruit represents “receiving for the sake of giving”, for even the “desire to receive” has acquired the “form” of “giving”. This is comparable to what Chazal teach with regard to marriage, that by a prestigious man, if the bride gives him (something of value for the sake of marriage) and he speaks (the words of betrothal) to her, they are married (even though the man must be the giver of something of value and the one who speaks the words of betrothal), (since, by being a very prestigious person, even the act of receiving the object provides a pleasure for the gift giver, as if the prestigious person is actually giving to the bride). See the introduction to the Zohar #11.
This is the “form” that will be after the resurrection of the dead. It is the “refined form” at the completion of the refinement, as it was prior to the sin (of Adam and Eve). This is what Chazal say at the end of Tractate Kesuvos, “Rabbi Chiya Bar Ashi said in the name of Rav, in the future, the non-fruit-bearing trees, in the land of Israel, will produce fruit, for the verse says, “1) For the tree will bear its fruit, 2) the date palm and the grapevine will give their strength.” Rashi says that since it is written that the date palm and the grapevine will give their strength, we know it is a fruit-bearing tree, so why does the verse need to say that the tree will bear its fruit? We learn from this that even the nonfruitbearing trees will carry fruit.
Tree – Ilan
It is brought in the introduction to the Tikunei Zohar in the commentary Maalos Hasulam (written by Rabbi Yehudah Tzvi Brandwein, father of Rabbi Avraham Brandwein) #34, from the middle of the quote, these are his words, “All of the Holy Forms (Partzufim) (of the Sefiros) came out through the aspect of a screen (Masach) (like a blocking material to prevent light from passing through), which was a repair (a refining garment) in the vessel of Malchus, as the Supernal Light (the straight light) was drawn down and spread to the emanated level, like a striking between the supernal light and the screen, which sends back up a “returning light” (Or Chozer) from below to above, and enclothes the ten Sefiros of the “straight light” (Or Yashar), and with the enclothing of the “returning light” over the “straight light”, this “returning light” becomes a “vessel to receive” the supernal light, in the place of the fourth level (Malchus), as the secret of Dina (Sternness) is the transposed letters of Adni (the Holy name of Adonoy). Since after there is a (striking) union (Zivvug) on the screen and the sternness which is in Malchus, it clothes the “straight light”, the aspect of sternness is converted into a Holy Name, the Name of Adni. The Ten Sefiros of the Straight light, which are called Havaya, in the secret of, “I Havaya have not changed,” enclothe and interweave with the Ten Sefiros of the Returning Light, which are called Adni, like the sun in its sheath (Havaya in Adni), in the secret of Yud Aleph Hay Daled Vav Nun Hay Yud (the blending of the two names of Hashem). This concludes his words for our issue. According to what was explained above, that the “first matter”, which is the “desire to receive”, is the thickening and grossness (heading away from refinement), which is Din. But after acquiring a positive “form”, everything is converted to Mercy (Rachamim).
According to this, we can understand why the Tanna specifically used the term Ilan (tree) (rather than Eitz), “Rosh Hashanah for the Ilan.” This is because Ilan (Aleph Yud Lamed Nun) is Gematria 91, which is the interweaving of the two names of Havaya (26) and Adni (65), Din (Stern judgment) in Mercy, so the world would be able to maintain its existence. An Ilan produces fruit, which means that the “desire to receive” acquires the “form” of “giving”. This is as Chazal teach in Tractate Taanis page 5b, “What is this comparable to? A man… who found a tree whose fruit was sweet and whose shade was beautiful… He ate from the fruit... and when he was ready to leave, he said, “Ilan Ilan, about what shall I bless you? (you already have everything!) Rather, may it be the Will of Hashem that all plantings (all of your offspring) which are planted from you, should be like you, …”