What is the avodah of a person on Tu B’Shvat? What points should I focus on? I have heard in some derashos from the Rav on Tu B’Shvat that a person should connect to the “beginning point” of the soul and also elevate the act of eating. But how can I work on this practically? I would like to add more depth to the custom of eating the symbolic fruits on Tu B’Shvat, and I would like to know which points I should think about when I’m eating the fruits on Tu B’Shvat.
1) Since Tu B’Shvat falls out during the days of Shovavim, there is a connection between Tu B’Shvat and Shovavim. The Arizal says that Chanukah, Purim, and Tu B’Shvat correspond to the spiritual Sefiros of Hod-Splendor (corresponding to Purim), Netzach-Eternity (corresponding to Chanukah), and Yesod-Foundation (corresponding to Tu B’Shvat). Hence, Tu B’Shvat is connected with the spiritual sphere of Yesod [the idea of connecting to one’s personal holiness]. This is also known as the soul faculty of hiskashrus (connection), and it is also referred to as the trait of the tzaddik. Therefore, it is appropriate for a person on Tu B’Shvat to connect himself to the trait of tzaddik-yesod, the soul’s power of hiskashrus/connection.
2) The Talmud Yerushalmi (Sheviis 5:1) states that if any trees have produced a shlish, one third of its produce, one has an obligation of maaser (giving away a tenth of produce grown in Eretz Yisrael) on it, whereas any trees that haven’t yet produced a third of its produce are set aside for the next year’s calculation of maaser. Hence, when it comes to produce [i.e. fruits], a third of the produce must be present, in order for the fruit to be deemed as a fruit. On an inner level, this hints to us that fruits remind us of the concept of shlish, a “third”. This is a hint to our “tri-fold” connection: “Hashem, Yisrael, and the Torah are one.”
There are three main sections to the body, which are called rosh (the head and face), geviyah (the middle section of the body, including the chest and torso), and the beten (from the stomach and downward). The upper third section of the body, where the head is housed, represents the spiritual. It is the place in the body where we use our intellect. The middle section of the body houses our emotions and desires. It represents the intermediate level between the intellect and the physicality of the body. The lower section of the body, from the stomach and downward, is used for our basest functions, and it represents gross physicality.
On Tu B’Shvat, our personal avodah [when eating the fruits, where we are reminded of this concept of shlish, a “third”] is to rise to the highest third section of the body, the head, by becoming more connected with our “head”, the power of analytical thought. We must not allow ourselves to remain at the level of the middle section of the body [desires and emotions which are divorced from intellect], and certainly not at the lowest section of the body [gross physicality]. Our avodah on Tu B’Shvat is to become connected with the highest “third” of the body, our head [our thinking abilities], for it is the head which is connected with Heaven, as it is written, “And its head reached the Heavens.”