Tu BiShvat and the Tree of Life and Death

Tu B’Shvat celebrates nature’s yearly cycle of planting for future harvesting. The harvested crop does not really die; it gives its life to the living beings who were designed by nature and God to be nourished by plant food.

Since the Torah is called a Tree of Life, I have also seen trees as a bridge connecting earth and heaven, rooted in tradition while reaching up to draw the energy nourishment to grow and evolve from a supernal source.

Then one summer I began to notice dead trees. I spent several weeks on the Colorado plateau: Zion, Bryce, Canyon De Chelly and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The area is arid and many of the dead trees remain standing for generations.

The beauty of dead trees suddenly struck me. How could death be so beautiful?

The Torah declares that we have a choice between good and evil, between being a blessing or a curse, between life and death. (Deuteronomy 30:15,19)

We are then commanded to choose life. So how can there be any intrinsic value in death?

Trees are not people and long dead trees do not reflect a severed relationship. Yet perhaps we can learn something from the beauty of dead trees. I share these thoughts.

Some people long dead
I love more than many people now alive;
Because they were so very lovable.

It is true that “Love is as strong as death.” (Song of Songs 8:6)
Love isn’t stronger because no matter how much you love someone
You can’t prevent a loved one’s death.

But death isn’t stronger than love
Because even within death love exists
In the heart of the lover.

God gives opportunities
but not forever.
God takes opportunities away
after a while.

So don’t hesitate or delay or curse the darkness
while remaining mired in hopelessness,
because God gives;
and God takes away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.

But why bless the LORD when God takes away?
Because if the opportunities were always there,
we would wait until the time was right
and never make the leap,
and another year would waste away.
So God gives and God takes away.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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