Tu B’shvat is a very big day, spiritually.
(Based on a video shiur of Rav Ofer Erez, shlita).
It’s a day when a huge amount of kedusha (holiness) comes down to the world.
In Parshat Bo, Hashem says to Moshe Rabbenu: “Come to Pharoah because I have hardened his heart.”
The Zohar asks a question on this verse: why does it say ‘Bo’, come to Pharoah? It should say go to Pharoah? The holy Zohar explains that Moshe was together with Hashem when Hashem said this, and that the true meaning is that Hashem was telling Moshe ‘come with me to the ‘upper’ Pharoah – not the flesh-and-blood Pharoah who was sitting on the Egyptian throne.
Let’s explain what this means.
Everything in our world has two aspects: the revealed aspect that make up our ‘reality’ in this lowly world, and then its upper aspect, or higher spiritual ‘root’. This applies to everything in the world, but it’s especially true of people.
People get their spiritual strength from this upper spiritual ‘root’.
The Zohar tells us that Hashem was saying to Moshe: ‘Come with me, and I’m going to show you were Pharoah is getting his spiritual strength from, on high.’ Pharoah was getting his strength from a very high place spiritually – just it was coming from the side of the ‘not good’, the negative side.
This place is called the keter d’klipa, kabbalistically, or the ‘Crown of the Spiritual Impurities’. It’s the root of all the tumah, all the spiritual defilement, in the world. When Moshe saw this, he was petrified. The Zohar says that even angels are scared of this place, where Pharoah was getting his strength from.
So, Hashem took Moshe to this place, and then told Moshe: ‘Know you’re going to send him three blows, three plagues. The plague of locusts, the plague of darkness, and the death of the firstborn. And with these three plagues, you are going to uproot him at his spiritual source, and destroy all of his powers.’
Moshe was scared to do this, but Hashem told him: Don’t be scared! It’s not really you that’s doing this, it’s Me, Hashem, but you’re just performing the actions.
With these last three plagues, Moshe Rabbenu was going to clean out the remaining power of the forces of tumah and evil in the world.
The Zohar tells us that just as each of these three plagues ‘damaged’ the Egyptians, they ‘healed’ the Children of Israel, and revealed the aspects of kedusha, holiness in the world.
So with these three final plagues, Moshe uprooted the forces of evil in the world. Now, when did all this happen? The Torah doesn’t tell us the dates of when the plagues actually occurred, except for the final one, the death of the firstborn. That’s the only plague where we know the date, the 15th of Nissan, the first night of Pesach.
Each plague lasted a month of days
Chazal ask, what was the duration of each plague, and how long did the whole process of the 10 plagues actually take? Chazal actually give a couple of answers to this, and there is some disagreement about how things actually played out in Egypt. But the most accepted answer is that there was a ‘month of days’ between each plague.
What this means, practically, is that the plague itself lasted for a whole week, and then there would be a three week break until the next one. So the plague of blood lasted for a week, and then there was a three week break until the next plague of frogs occurred, which also lasted for a week, and so on, and so forth.
So between each plague, there was a ‘month of days’ – this is the most accepted answer, but it’s not the only answer Chazal give. According to this, we can know the dates of all the other plagues, because we can work back from the date of the final plague, the death of the firstborn.
So, the plague of darkness took place a month earlier, 30 days beforehand, which brings us to the 15th of Adar – which is Shushan Purim. It’s written that while the Egyptians experienced only darkness, the Jews had light in their homes. What light was this? It was the spiritual light of Purim, that was revealed to the Jewish nation for the very first time.
It’s written in Megillat Esther, that the Jews had ora (light) and gladness, honor and joy – and this spiritual light of Purim was first revealed in Egypt, during the plague of darkness.
The plague of locusts occurred another full month of days before this, which brings us to Tu B’Shvat. The Torah tells us that during this plague, the locusts ate up every green thing in Egypt. On the side of kedusha, holiness, Tu B’Shvat is actually the ‘new year of the trees’.
The Egyptians were destroying the world with their behaviour, so they got the plague of locusts on this day.
From this point on, the holy books tell us that a very large spiritual light begins to shine in the world, from Tu B’Shvat, from the time of the plague of locusts. Every single year, this enormous spiritual light starts to be revealed in the world anew, bringing with it tremendous blessing and shefa (bounty).
The time between Tu B’Shvat and Pesach is a very favourable time, a time of et ratzon. We should try to strengthen ourselves in our prayers over the coming weeks, to say more Tehillim, to spend more time doing hitbodedut, talking to God in our own words, each person at whatever level they’re holding at.
These next couple of months contain tremendous blessings, but especially these three specific days: Tu B’Shvat, Purim and the first night of Pesach.
May we all merit to tap into this tremendous flow of bounty and goodness.