It’s Tu bishvat, and I am busy checking weird looking dried fruit, until I have 15 samples of the bounty Hashem gives us straight from His earth. Tu Bishvat, the 15th of Shvat, always turns out to be during the time that the Torah narrates our liberation from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the way mann fell at G-d’s command to sustain us during our stay in the desert.
It seems to me that the main thing that these parshas tell you is that Hashem is willing to turn the world upside down for you, yes you, The Jewish people is made out of myriads of “you”. Not some anonymous “us”. It says in Pirkei Avot that Hashem loves humans because they are in His image. He sees the part of you that is like Him. That, means it is possible to discover the part of you that is eternal and always pure. Hashem split the sea for all of us, not just the greats or the brilliant ones. This is why the Talmud stresses that even the nursing babies knew in Whose presence they found themselves as their mothers took them through the sea.
Many things are compared to the splitting of the sea: the way Hashem sustains you, the way He finds your mate, (and for those of you who are not married, that too is part of His providence).
Another thing that is engraved on our collective memory is the way that the mann fell. As Abraham Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. We had mann for forty years; as much as we needed and not more, as near or as far as it needed to be, and it tasted the way we wanted it to taste. You can’t tell millions of people that they had mann every day unless they actually did. The memory is etched on your soul.
The mann was the perfect food. It gave every individual the right nourishment to sustain him both physically and spiritually. It is called the “food of angels” in tehillim for that reason. Even though two people, for instance, were both getting exactly what they each need, they didn’t necessarily have the same experience with the mann. Each one had food that tasted the way he wanted it to taste. One person could have a bowl of mann and to him it would taste like pizza, while another one could be eating the very same mann and it would taste like oatmeal.
Nowadays the way Hashem sends you your sustenance is still perfect. It gives you what you need both physically and spiritually. The way that he sustains you emotionally, financially, spiritually, intellectually, is what He knows you need for you to be the person you were created to be. It is perfect for you. The way He achieves this end is far more concealed than it was during the heady years we were in the desert. There are layers and layers of what seems to be outside cause and effect that create the illusion that He is not really involved, or worse still not really aware of your true needs. The way you interpret your life affects the “taste” of your life. You don’t necessarily make a conscious decision to taste your life as the equivalent of pizza or oatmeal, but non-conscious decisions are still real. Examining your responses to life and owning them is much easier said than done.
Picture this scene:
Little boy “whaaa. Waaa”
Dad: “WHat’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
Little boy: “ I spilled my milk”
Dad (happy to teach a life lesson) “Don’t cry over spilled milk!”
Little boy: “It spilled on your computer”
Dad: “Whaa waaa”
I have met people whose lives were painful, but they experienced life as sweet, and others who have everything except the one thing that they are focused on. For some it is financial security - owning their own home instead of renting. For others it is finding someone with whom they could share their lives. For still others, it’s having a perfect body. The rest of the package might be there, but if the one component that they want more than anything else is absent, somehow renders everything bitter. You have the opportunity to look upward, and to see the Source, and to recognize that your measurement of mann is perfect.
When Moshe complained to Hashem about how little faith we had, Hashem, who could see us with even more acute vision than Moshe could, wanted Moshe to see our true beauty. He showed Moshe again and again that His love for us is neither something that is conditional, nor is it something that any mortal can completely understand.
Tu Bishvat is the new year of the trees. It says that this is a good day to pray for a good esrog. One of the four species that are taken on succot (the others being a lulav (palm branch), haddasim (mytles) and aravot (willows). Each one resembles a part of the body. The esrog looks like a heart (no, a heart doesn’t look like a valentine it looks like an esrog…). Pray for a good heart, one that will be open to seeing how wonderful, beautiful and holy you are underneath the layers of what you may think of as being the Real Me. Pray for being able to look at what you have, and at the people who surround you and see the mann.