Tonight begins the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, known as Tu B’Shvat.
Just as Rosh HaShanah celebrates the New Year for mankind,
Tu B’Shvat celebrates the new year for trees.1
Tu B’Shvat is therefore a special day for appreciating trees and all the delicious and nutritious fruits that grow on trees. Many people even make a Tu B’Shvat Seder, eating many different types of fruits and say special tefillos (prayers).
Since we are focusing this month on Hakaras HaTov (gratitude), let’s spend this Tu B’Shvat focusing together on thanking Hashem for all the delicious fruits and foods that He gives us!
Now, let’s think… how often does Hashem give us food?
Hashem gives us food every single day – multiple times a day! It is a tremendous chessed (kindness) that Hashem gives us food that not only nourishes our bodies, but also tastes good and is enjoyable to eat. Imagine if we had to eat GRAY TASTELESS MUSH for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What an unpleasant experience that would be! Instead, Hashem gives us beautiful, tasty fruits and all types of foods to sustain our bodies and give us energy in a way that gives us pleasure.
If Hashem is giving us food all the time, shouldn’t we be thanking Him every day, every time we eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack in between?
Well, actually… that’s exactly what we’re supposed to be doing! That’s why Chazal (the Sages) instituted the mitzvah to make brachos (blessings) before and after we eat every food! Chazal recognized that it is so very important to instill within us this sense of appreciation to Hashem, that they required us to make brachos every single time we eat.
Saying Brachos With More Focus
Many of us are already in the practice of making brachos regularly over the foods we eat. But how many of us are really focusing on the meaning of the words, and the sense of appreciation that brachos are meant to awaken?
Do we really feel a sense of gratitude every time we say a brachah?
If you do – great! Pat yourself on the back! But if you’re like most Jews, and have a hard time feeling this sense of gratitude every time you say a brachah (I know I do!) then don’t worry – it’s never too late to improve!
While we usually think of Rosh Hashanah as the time for doing teshuva, Tu B’Shvat is actually a very special time for doing teshuva, too. Tu B’Shvat is actually a special day for doing a specific type of teshuva, known as Teshuva Mei’Ahavah – repentance out of love for Hashem.
(To read a fascinating explanation for why this is the case, click here.)
What is Teshuva Mei’Ahava? How do we accomplish “repentence out of love”?
The Sefer HaIkkarim2 explains that there are many different types and levels of love. One basic type of love results from when a person recognizes all the wonderful gifts or benefits that another person has given them. When you recognize all the gifts someone gave you, the natural outcome is that you will feel a sense of love toward the person who gave you these gifts. For example, if a grandparents showers their grandchildren with gifts, the grandchildren are more likely to love their grandparents.
Applying this concept to Hashem, we can see that the more a person recognizes all the good that Hashem gives him, the more he will feel drawn to love Hashem. And the more we feel love for Hashem, the more we will want to fulfill His Will by doing Torah and mitzvos, thereby coming closer to Hashem through Teshuva Mei’Ahavah (repentance out of love).
This Tu B’Shvat, let’s try to focus on appreciating all the delicious foods that Hashem gives to us, which will hopefully inspire us to love Hashem more and want to draw closer to Him by doing His mitzvos.
Sources:  Mishna in Rosh HaShanah 1:1;  Sefer HaIkkarim, Chapter 36
While saying a brachah on food (either before or after eating), have in mind that you are thanking Hashem for giving you this delicious food.
While saying a brachah on an apple, have in mind that you are thanking Hashem for giving you this apple. You can do this challenge as many times as you want, from the beginning of Tu B’Shvat until the end of Tu B’Shvat! See how many you can do! You’ll earn 1 point for every brachah that you say with kavannah before the deadline.