Tu B'Shvat

You Are What You Eat

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
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You Are What You Eat
Your body is designed to be the servant of your soul. It is the intermediary between the inner and the outer worlds. Naturally, a servant can be willing and pliant, or coarse and obstructive.

Just as a craftsman needs the best tools to produce fine work, likewise the human soul requires a pure body to execute its appointed task. Forbidden food, food which is not kosher (lit. 'fit') contaminate the soul so that holiness will not flow through the body. It renders the body obtuse and insensitive to spirituality.

The foods that the Torah permits heighten Man's awareness of the Divine, and his desire and ability to serve his Creator.

Everything physical owes its existence to a holy spark buried within it. When you eat, your body extracts the physical nutrients from the food. But there is something else that is actually keeping you alive, because "Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that which emanates from the mouth of Hashem." Hashem has placed Divine life-sustaining sparks into food. These sparks that keep us alive.

On Tu B'Shevat (15th Shevat/22-23 January), we rejoice over the fruits of the Land of Israel, which are filled with these Divine sparks.

There are seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised - food made from the wheat, barley, wine, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

After eating any of these, we make a special blessing for the produce of the field and the desirable, good and spacious land that Hashem saw fit to give to our forefathers.

Even within the Land of Israel, the fruit of some places is more full of kedusha (holiness) than others. The locale with the greatest potential for holiness is the land around Tiberias. Just as a baby in the womb derives nourishment through its umbilical cord and its navel, so too the 'navel' of Eretz Yisrael, the place from which the land derives its kedusha, is the province of the tribe of Naftali, the valley of Ginnosar, and the city of Tiberias. The name 'Tiberias' comes from the Hebrew word tabur, which means 'navel'. And the word Ginnosar means 'Garden of Princes.'

Who were these princes that visited Ginnosar? They were the aristocracy of the Torah world - its Torah sages. The sages would journey to partake of its fruits.

The Talmud relates that Rabbi Abahu ate of these fruits until a fly would slip off his forehead. Rashi explains that he became exhilarated when he ate; and his face shone to such an extent that a fly would slip off his smooth forehead.

The fly is a symbol of impurity and sin. It is repelled by someone of intense holiness. The prophet Elisha was recognized as a holy man, "because no fly ever flew over his table."

When Rabbi Abahu ate of the fruits of Ginnosar, quite possibly on Tu B'Shvat itself, he experienced a heightened spirituality which brought a spiritual sheen to his 'forehead.' His wisdom and holiness were so intense that they repelled the dark forces, symbolized by the fly.

  • Source: 'Fruit for the Soul' by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer in The Jewish Observer, January 1986

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