Tu BShevat: Planting seeds for the future.

What do you think of when you look out into your garden? The wonders of nature, the beauty of the different shades of green or blossoms of color – plants breathe life into the environment around us. The special care put into planning gardens or the arrangements of plants in our homes and offices are, for many, an important contribution to the atmosphere we want to embrace in our daily lives.

"And the Lord G-d planted a garden in the first instance in Eden" (Genesis בראשית 2:8) as a lesson that we, too when we enter the land given to us, should concern ourselves with planting above all else as it is written, "And when you come into the land, then you shall plant."

Trees in Israel bear a particular significance. From the smallest shrub emerging from behind the rocks in the hills of Judea to the trees of JNF that have grown tall enough to reach the sky, trees in Israel are a demonstration of the long history of this land.

The Jewish people have kept alive this importance bestowed unto trees, and Tu B'Shevat (the New Year of Trees) is but one example of our continued reflection on trees in Jewish tradition. While trees embody the commandment to settle the Land of Israel, they can also be a reminder of our connection to Israel from wherever we may be in the world!

For thousands of years in exile, we have kept alive the importance of a continued connection with our ancestors, the values they represent and the land in which they lived. In keeping with the word of Rav Nachman, "Our Father, Jacob did not die...just as his seed lives on so does he live on forever." (Taanith [5]b).  We know that every living being shares its legacy with the world through the seeds it leaves behind, just as we inherit the values bestowed upon us by the Jewish men and women who came before us.

Rav Nachman said, "Our Father, Jacob did not die...just as his seed lives on so does he live on forever." (Taanith [5]b).

Every tree lives and dies, but so long as it has produced seed after its kind, and the seed is alive and thrives, the tree lives on forever through its seeds. Our love for Israel can live on forever through the seeds we plant today for coming generations.

Rav Oshaia said, "G-d has done kindness to the Jewish people by dispersing them among the nations" (Pesachim. 87b). For, as seeds are dispersed by the Creator to make sure that many of them would survive and continue their kind, so, when G-d sent our people into exile, He dispersed them among the nations, so that at no time should any hostile power destroy all of them, G-d forbid. So has it been throughout the almost 2000 years of our exile.

When one Jewish community was destroyed by a cruel enemy, many others thrived elsewhere. But G-d also promised, "Fear not, Israel, for I am with you. I will bring your seed from the east... and from the west... and from the north... and from the south " (Isa. 43:5), to be planted again in G-d's vineyard in the Holy Land.

Not everyone can make their way to Israel these days - it is too expensive for most and we are all too busy. In the meantime we celebrate your love for Israel from throughout the Diaspora by offering you a chance to plant a little something of your own, in your home and in your heart, as a part of our Virtual Israel Forest.

Send us your photos, we'll map it! We can grow IsraelLove all over the world - a small, silent demonstration that, yes, Israel is indeed a part of us. In our thoughts, in our hearts and, now, in our gardens, too!

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