Tu B’shvat is not just a day to plant trees, and Torah is not only a Tree of Life; Torah is also a Tree of Recycled Life as Henry David Thoreau said: “The very earth itself is a granary and a seminary; every seed means not only birth but rebirth.”

Trees produce thousands of seeds that feed many mammals and birds: and a few of the seeds even reproduce the tree itself. So too do fruitful teachers of Torah produce new students; and new interpretations of Torah, for the next generation

A modern Tu B’shavt fable relates: Shortly before a soul is embodied she is asked if she wants to be able to attach herself to her children, to feel the pain of becoming detached from one she loves when they grow up and leave, and in general to love and be loved. If the soul says yes she is embodied in a mammal. If the soul says no she is embodied as a fish or an insect.

Then the soul is asked if she desires to be very independent, and responsible only for her own survival; or if she desires to always be part of a group or a pack with a fixed social structure. If she desires to be only an individual she is embodied as a solitary hunter.

If she desires to belong to a total community she is embodied as a social insect such as a bee or a termite if she did not want to love, or as a social mammal such as a chimpanzee or a dog if she desired to love and be loved.

Finally, the soul is asked if she wants to be self-conscious of its need to struggle with social and moral choices, always aware as Psychiatrist Victor Frankl a concentration camp survivor said: ”If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”, and always trying to fulfill her duties and responsibilities to others, and her spiritual connection to greater realities. If the soul says yes she is created as a human being.

Then if the soul studies the Biblical Book of Proverbs she learns that just by making a strong commitment to following God’s teachings we will live a life of goodness and love. “She (Torah wisdom) is a Tree of Life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her tight will be happy” [3:18]

And just by speaking words of kindness and comfort we are able to strengthen, revive and heal a human’s spirit, “A soothing tongue is a Tree of Life” [15:4]

And the soul learns that seeking to realize our longings for love and peace, and avoiding negativity, cynicism and despair, revitalizes our spirits. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a Tree of Life” that makes us productive and generous. [13:12]