Happy New Year!
Celebrate New Years now? Yes! We have an amazing opportunity to renew our spiritual lives during this period.
Everyone is familiar with the concept of defining different New Years. Two examples are fiscal year and academic year.
Jews celebrate four New Years: Rosh Hashanah (1 Tishrei), Tu b’Shvat (15 Shvat), Rosh Chodesh Nissan (1 Nissan), and Rosh Chodesh Elul (1 Elul). Each New Year has its own religious and halachic significance.
Tu b’Shvat is the New Year of trees. Hashem commands us not to eat the fruit of a tree until its fifth year (Vayikra 19:25).
But how do you calculate the age of a tree? There are over 200 million trees in Israel.
Tu b’Shvat is the official birthday of every tree. If a tree is planted in the middle of the summer, it becomes a year old on the 15th of Shvat. If it is planted on the 14th of Shevat, it celebrates its first birthday the next day.
The Great Renewal
Just as Tu b’Shvat is a New Year, so too Shovevim ushers in a period of renewal. “Shovevim” is an acronym of the first letters of the six weekly Torah portions (Shemot, Va’eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, and Mishpatim).
It’s the celebration of personal holiness, a festival of spiritual revival. The Jew, a tree that Hashem planted in this world, does a self-evaluation. It is a time where Hashem gives special blessings for those who put extra focus on the laws of personal holiness.
It’s a time to take stock of everything in your home that has lewd pictures and do some early Spring cleaning. It’s a time to check your internet to see if you have the right filters. It’s a time to ask yourself what you do every day, every week, in relation to your interactions with members of the opposite sex.
How are you dressing? Do you dress to conceal, or do you dress to attract?
What do you do at the end of a workday? How often do you go to the bar or the club?
Are you going to the mikveh every week?
The mitzvah of personal holiness is one of the hardest to keep.
The good news is that Hashem rewards the effort. Fighting for this mitzvah is where we make a big difference in His world and in our lives.
Why in January?
January is one of the most beautiful months of the year – if you can catch it.
In Hollywood, when they want you to really soak your eyes into a scene, you know what they do? They drench it in water. When anything is wet, the colors are amplified. You see them vividly.
January is when the world is drenched in water. The fields are green. Leaves begin to sprout from the branches. Wheat, which becomes golden brown right around Pesach, begins to grow as green stalks.
The violet Rakefet flower, the sun-yellow Savion, and winter’s masterpiece – the fiery red Kalanit – all blossom at this time.
They are the Jewish confetti that ushers in the great days of personal re-dedication to Hashem.
Do We See the Beauty Around Us?
Every day, there is a blue sky with magnificent birds flying about. There are trees everywhere with all types of furry creatures scurrying left and right.
But do we really see it in the big city?
It’s the sensitivity of our spirit that sees beauty. The more sensitive we become to everything around us, the easier it is to perceive ourselves inside Hashem’s great masterpiece.
Sins of a sexual nature numb the soul. Our meals aren’t as enjoyable. Our family and friends aren’t as warm. Even our money and success cannot be enjoyed as much.
We have eyes but cannot see. We have ears but cannot hear. We have a heart but cannot feel.
This is the tragedy of failing to fulfill the commandment of personal holiness.
Shovevim is the annual commitment to renew our vow to Hashem to emphasize our spirit over our body, and to prioritize spiritual pursuits over material efforts.
What Do We Do?
The first steps on our great journey begin with picking the low-hanging fruit of this mitzvah.
Every day we can speak to Hashem in our own language to ask for help in overcoming our urges. We can recite Tikkun HaKlali, or Psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, 150.
We can learn about this mitzvah by dedicating 30 minutes a day to learning about personal holiness. Check the site Guard Your Eyes.
We can go to freedom.to, and decide which websites we want to block ourselves from seeing. We can decide which hours of the day we want to block these sites.
We can search our homes for chametz, disguised as lewd books, magazines, or materials of a graphic nature, and throw them out.
We can decide to go a week, a month, two months, without entering a bar. Instead, look for places to volunteer, see a lecture, take a class, or go to synagogue for an additional shiur.
We can cancel our subscription to dating sites.
Every week, we can go to a mikveh to further purify our soul.
There are a lot of levels to this, all of them opening huge treasuries of Hashem’s blessing and bounty.
You will feel the results pretty quickly. Your soul will start to see things that were always there but you never could stop to enjoy.
A large body of water while you’re traveling over a bridge.
A bird flying overhead.
A beautiful painting.
Connection with Hashem while you pray.
The ability to wake up a little earlier without feeling tired.
This is a VERY POWERFUL mitzvah. It’s like charging your neshama with 500,000 volts of energy.
You become a new person. Everything around you becomes new. Everything around you becomes inspiring. Life becomes beautiful.
May each tree and each Jew enjoy renewed vitality!
Happy New Year, again!
David Ben Horin lives in Afula with his family, millions of sunflowers, and Matilda, our local camel. David’s Israeli startup, Center Stage Marketing, is a lean marketing agency for startups and small businesses that creates and promotes SEO optimized ROI-driven to the right audience on LinkedIn to make your business the star of the show.