Tu B’Shvat: Tree of Life

Tu B’Shvat, though in the middle of winter, celebrates a New Year (Rosh Hashana) for trees. Though it may seem cold and grey out there, I assure you, with perfect faith, the trees will bud, and bear fruit again. V’eemru? (And let us say?) Moreover, if anyone here feels cold and grey within here, I assure you, with perfect faith, the trees will bud, and bear fruit again. V’eemru? I am confident, since Messiah Yeshua is the Tree of Life—and offers life and fruit from this Tree.

How many of you aren’t too familiar with Tu B’Shvat? OK. First, why is it called Tu B’Shvat? It means the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, at the full moon.

Tu B’Shevat is not a moed or appointed time with Hashem; you won’t find this festival in the Bible. The ancient Rabbis discerned not one but four different New Years daysTu B’Shvat is for the tithing of the fruit of the tree.

The Mishnah (the older part of Talmud) explains:  Rosh HaShana 2a. There are four new years. On the first of Nisan is the New Year for kings and for festivals. On the first of Elul is the New Year for the tithe of cattle… On the first of Tishri is the New Year for years, for release and jubilee years, for plantation and for [tithe of] vegetables. On the first of Shevat is the New Year for trees, according to the ruling of Beth Shammai; Beth Hillel, however, place it on the fifteenth of that month.

The issue at hand was when to bring the tithe of the fruit of trees, as required in Leviticus 27:30: “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to Hashem; it is holy to Hashem.” Beit Shammai said that the new year for trees is on the first day of the month of Shevat, But the school of Hillel said that it is on the 15th day of Shevat. By the time the Mishna was written (around 200 C.E.), the Halachah or Rabbinic rulings almost always followed the opinion of the school of Hillel. So observant Jews celebrate the New Year (Rosh Hashana) for Trees on the 15th of Sh’vat.

TuBShvatSevenSpeciesTu B’Shvat celebates the fruits of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:7-8. “For Adonai your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; A land with wheat and barley, grape vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and date honey.”

Therefore it is customary to partake of the seven species of fruit mentioned in these verses—wheat and barley, grapes and figs, pomegranates, olives and dates—to remember the goodness of the land that Hashem promised to the children of Israel.

Another custom associated with this day is planting trees in the land. Ancient Israel had many trees, but reforestation has been a major aspect of modern Zionism. Centuries of invading armies and neglect had made the Promised Land into a barren wilderness. When Jews started returning, the Jewish National Fund made it a project to replant forests there. The trees help to restore the land and help to attract rain.

The MJAA also has a Messianic Forest project—for which we’ll take an offering today. It’s a mitzvah to plant a tree in the land and traditional to do so to remember a loved one.

The planting of trees to restore the land fulfills many Bible  prophecies, including  Ezekiel 36:30: “I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.” This winter has seen a remarkable snowfalls all over the land—I expect the land to be green and beginning to bloom when our tour visits there at the end of the rainy season.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God has much to say about trees, esp. the Tree of Life. Beresheet (Genesis) 2:9.  “And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground— trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Adam and Eve never did get to taste of the fruit of this tree, did they? After Adam disobeyed concerning the forbidden tree, Hashem determined, in Gen 3:22, that the man must not reach out and take also from the tree of life,” and set up a flaming sword to guard the way back to the Tree.

Will any of us ever get to taste the fruit of this Tree of Life? I believe there is a way…. In Revelation 2:7, Yeshua promises, To the one who overcomes, I will grant the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.”  Revelation 22:14 promises, to all who come to Messiah’s wedding feast, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and go through the gates into the city.”

What is this tree, and what is its fruit? The fruit of this tree gives everlasting life.   In Genesis 3:22, After humanity fell, Hashem ruled that humanity must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever.”  God originally intended Adam to eat from the Tree of Life. Why do you suppose HaShem didn’t want humanity to eat of this tree after the fall? You might get impression that God was afraid of what might happen.  Oh no! Yet,  I don’t think so…. God knows that a human being could live forever … and be miserable.  I recall a Star Trek episode with this theme, about an ancient man who just wished he could die. That’s not the kind of life G-d intended for human beings.  That’s a picture of hell!

The Tree of Life was not just intended to give long life…it was intended to give abundant life. As Messiah Yeshua said (John 10:10) that he had “come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” This abundant life is life lived in the presence of G-d, who loves you with everlasting love.

Before the fall, the original man and woman were accustomed to “walking with HaShem in the garden in the cool of the day.” David got a taste of this abundant, eternal life, describing in the last verse of Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Have you gotten a taste of this abundant, eternal life? In Revelation 22:17, Yeshua issues an invitation, “Come! Let whoever thirsts come, and whoever desires, let him take  the gift of the water of life freely.”

How many are you are a little thirsty, for this life? How many have already tasted this life? Taste and see how good our God can be? V’eemru?

The Tree of Life is available even in winter!

The Tree of Life was also intended to bring healing. In Ezekiel 47:12, the prophets sees trees on the bank of a river bringing life to the Dead Sea: “Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” It is found again in Revelation 22:2, the “leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

Because Adam disobeyed HaShem’s commandment and instruction, he lost this eternal life. When a man asked Yeshua, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Yeshua answered, in Matthew 19:17, “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” The problem is, we descendants of Adam don’t find it any easier to obey God’s mitzvot! Especially when you consider that Adam only had to obey one, but then God gave 613 more—and that’s just in the five books of Moses!

When we study them, we understand that God’s mitzvot are truly life-giving? V’eemru? If we could simply keep the mitzvah, “Do not covet!” we would be always be content! Right?  Yet for some reason, our hearts still have a tendency to covet….

Then Yeshua comes makes them just a tad harder, when he commands us not to lust in our hearts and bless our enemies and while we’re at it, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Oy gevolt! Keeping these commandments certainly will bring abundant life and peace, but what happens if you slip up a little?

Atyz Chayim - Lifting up ourTorah scrollWho knows what the two posts onto which the Torah scroll is rolled are called?

Aytz Chayim! Tree of Life! So we sing at the end of the Torah service, “Aytz chaim he,” which quotes Proverbs 3:18:  “It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it, and all its ways are peace.”

What is the parchment onto which the Torah is written made from?  Lamb’s skin. The lamb’s skin is literally nailed and thus attached to the Tree of Life. So when we lift up the Torah, envision Yeshua, the Lamb of God, lifted up on the Tree of Life, so that everyone who believes in him and his words may have eternal life. V’eemru?

He fulfilled the Torah perfectly for us.  For example, Yeshua never coveted. He was always content with what the Father provided for Him. He loved God as Abba with all His heart and soul and strength, and He loved neighbor as Himself. He was perfect in heart and action, just as our heavenly Father is  perfect. V’eemru?

Oh, if I could be just like Yeshua! That would be perfect, wouldn’t it? V’eemru?

Good News! Yeshua invites all us to share in His life, and to partake of the fruit of His Spirit. In John 3:14-15, Yeshua said, “Just as Moshe lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Yeshua carried this tree Himself—a tree without leaves or root or branches, to a rocky hilltop. It seemed like a tree of death, a tree of cursing—yet it has become, for all who look upon him, the Tree of Life, a tree of blessing. V’eemru? Who’s a thunk it!

Has everyone here experienced this abundant, eternal life that Yeshua offers to all from His tree? Psalm 34:8 says, Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. Would you like to taste this good life?  You can, today! Messiah Yeshua has made a way: he died on a tree to make atonement for your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness, so that you may have eternal life, and have it abundantly!

He offers His Holy Spirit to teach you how to follow him, and walk with him as Adam and Eve were meant to do, obeying his commandments, starting with the v’ahavta, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might.”

Yeshua carried this tree to remove every curse and bring healing to our souls and bodies. Galatians 3:13 says, “Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf, for it says, “Cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree.” So today you can come to the Tree of Life, trusting that he removes every curse from you.

Also 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” So I invite you come to the tree of life, trusting that HaShem will heal you, from within. If you are seeking a better life, for eternal life or for healing, I invite you to come forward for prayer. Our zakenim (elders) will pray for you now…. Come! (If you are reading this message, you can pray to Messiah Yeshua Himself, or you can contact us and one of us will give you a call to pray for you.)

I also believe everyone who receives eternal life should grow into a tree of life, bearing good fruit—the fruit of the Spirit of life. V’eemru?

Jeremiah 17:7-8 describes a person who has become a tree of life:  “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” This tree draws the water of life from a stream that never runs dry. It is not upset by circumstances such as heat or drought (or cold or ice), because its roots run deep.

Is this you?  Do you send your roots out to the stream of eternal life or do you fear when heat comes or worry about circumstances?  Are you bearing the fruit of eternal life?

Isaiah 61:3In Isaiah 61:3, he says He will give beauty for ashes so that we might “be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” The Spirit of Messiah wants to make each of you a fresh planting for the display of His splendor.  To accomplish it, He will do a divine exchange: He will trade your curse for His blessing. Fair enough?

He will trade your depression for His oil of joy. He will trade your dry ashes for His sweet fruit. He will trade your resentment for His lovingkindness. He will trade your anxiety for His shalom. He will trade your shame for His righteousness.  He will trade your weariness for His rest. He will trade your spirit of heaviness for His praise—so that you may  become strong as oaks. So He will trade your illnesses and infirmities for His life and strength.

Is there anyone here interested in this trade? Is there anyone here willing to exchange the grey cold of winter for the green warmth of spring? Is there anyone here desiring to put off the rags of complaining and put on a garment of glory? Is there anyone here longing to exchange the ashes of frustration for a crown of contentment? Is there anyone here thirsty enough to come to the water of life? Is there anyone here ready to put out new leaves of life and produce fresh fruit of the spirit? If anyone here is seeking the Tree of Life, for eternal life or for healing, come forward for prayer (or contact us for prayer).

2 comments on “Tu B’Shvat: Tree of Life

  1. Jesus4me2@comcast.net January 16, 2014 4:29 pm

    Rabbi Glenn,
    Thank you for this opportunity to hear your message and to be able to read along as you spoke your sermon. I especially appreciate to hear you speak in Hebrew as I read the spelling in Hebrew. I find G_d’s word making more impact on me by using audio sensory with the written Word. As I heard and read your final two paragraphs tears of joy and understanding was present through His H_ly Sp_r_t…praise G_d. I found the desire to return three more times to reread the final two paragraphs because they are so comforting. I would like to ask for your permission to copy the final two paragraphs and print them for my personal devotional time during my quite time with our Holy Father.

    I am a recent graduate (July 2013) from Liberty University Lynchburg, VA. with the degree of Master of Marketplace Chaplaincy. I believe your words will/could be used by the H_ly Sp_r_t through me as His vessel in my future ministry with the learning disabled and with the women at my church.

    I have visited Beit Simcha several times to hear you speak and hope to return again this year. You may not remember me, however perhaps you may recall my friend Suzanne Spangler. We are from the Wilkes-Barre (Luzerne county) area.

    Thank you for considering my request. May G_d continue to shed His blessings on you and on Beit Simcha.
    Linda Mericle

    • admin February 9, 2014 8:01 pm

      Sorry I didn’t respond sooner; I do appreciate the feedback. You mentioned a request at the end, but I didn’t see what that was.
      I hope you and Suzanne do find a way to visit us again some time soon.

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