Tu B’Shvat always falls out around the week of Parshat Beshalach. What is the connection between this Torah portion and the holiday when we celebrate trees?
After the Israelites cross the Sea of Reeds and celebrate with song, they reach a place called Marah, which means bitter. The water of Marah is too bitter to drink, and the people get thirsty and complain to Moses. “So he called out to the Lord, and the Lord instructed him concerning a piece of wood, which he cast into the water, and the water became sweet…” (Ex. 15:25). Moses cries out to God, and God tells him to put a branch into the water. When Moses does so, the bitter branch makes the bitter water into sweet water.
Rabbi Jonathan Caller finds a fascinating insight here about the miracle of fruit. Like Moses’ branch, a tree is made of bitter wood yet miraculously creates something that tastes sweet. The blessing we say to thank God before eating fruit is “boreh pri ha’etz” – Creator of the fruit of the tree. We don’t just thank our Creator for the fruit itself, but for the miracle of creating something so sweet from something so bitter.
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