Below is a write-up of Rav Weinberger's Shalosh Seudos drasha from this Shabbos. Even though this is the revised version, any mistakes are due to the writer (and NOT Rav Weinberger OR my dear friend Dixie Yid). You can see past write-ups of Rav Weinberger's Shalosh Sheudos Torahs here and get thousands of his shiurim in mp3 format at ravmosheweinberger.com.
Rav Moshe Weinberger
Shalosh Seudos Drasha Parashas Beshalach 5752
Reb Avromele Eiger: Tu B'Shvat and reviving a dry tree.
(Original text of the Shevet M'Yehudah (Parshas B'Shalach p. 129) is in regular font. Rav Weinberger’s comments are in italics)
Here Reb Avromele Eiger, son of Reb Leibele Eiger, discusses what we mentioned this morning about the custom in Europe to eat dried fruits on Tu B'Shvat.
The custom (in European lands) on Tu B'Shvat is to eat mostly dried fruits. We can say that this is especially the case when it falls during Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, according to what it says in the holy sefer Ohev Yisroel, brought down in the holy seforim of our master my holy father זצוקל״ה (R. Leibele Eiger) Toras Emes and Imrei Emes. He says there that Tu B'Shvat falls 45 days before Rosh Chodesh Nissan. And he writes in the holy sefer Imrei Emes that just like it takes 45 days for the seed of the tree to be absorbed into the ground, the awakening of Yetzias Mitzrayim (our redemption from Egypt) starts on Tu B'Shvat. And it's later fully revealed in the month of Nissan.
During the month of Nissan and specifically on Pesach is when Freedom fully sprouts. But the preparation for this starts 45 days earlier, on Tu B'Shvat when the sap starts to raise up and flow in the trees.
The passuk says ״כמו עץ השדה וכו׳״ (like the tree in the field), during the winter the tree seems dry and devastated but it's moisture and life force is never completely gone and it can renew itself and sprout again. The same is true regarding Yetzias Mitzrayim עי״ש.
R. Avromele Eiger brings down the story of the Dry Bones recounted in the Haftorah of Shabbos Pesach. It talks about a group of 300.000 members of Shevet Efrayim who made a mistake in their calculations and attempted to leave Mitzrayim 30 years earlier. On the way they were met by the Plishtim and were killed by them in a bitter war. Their bones were left there in the dessert. When Am Yisroel left Egypt with Moshe, Hashem did not want them to go through that area (״ולא נחם אלקים דרך ארץ פלשתים וכו׳) so that they would not see their bones and become afraid (פן ינחם העם בראתם מלחמה וכו׳). Much later Yecheskel witnessed their being miraculously brought back to life and describes how the moisture surged once again through their bodies and they were revived.
The root of this awakening, of this revival (of the dry bones) starts on Tu B'Shvat, the Rosh Hashana of the trees because that's when the sap starts to rise in the trees. Even though the eye cannot recognize any renewal in the tree it has been revealed to our sages ז״ל through Ruach Hakodesh that in Tu B'Shvat the sap returns even though the tree seems completely dry and devastated.
Obviously the reality is that this sap is not a completely new thing (as there is no creation out of nothing [יש מאין] after the creation of the world). It's just that deep inside the tree there always remains a very tiny drop. On Tu B’Shvat this drop of sap begins it’s climb up the tree. And this is a good and trustworthy sign that is much needed in the middle of the days of Shovavim. When man finds himself devastated and dry, almost without hope to deserve to live. As it's written (Yecheskel 18:32) ״והשיבו וחיו״ (and you will return and you will live), Hashem shows us through our sages ז״ל that in Tu B'Shvat (that falls in the middle week of the seven weeks of Shovavim) the sap and the ״חיות״ (life force) is re-awakened in the trees that seem dry and dead. This is the sign: that the essence of the sap and the חיות of the tree never disappears completely.
״האדם עץ השדה״ (and man is like the tree in the field). Even though according to a person's understanding he seems completely ruined and destroyed ח״ו without any possibility of coming back to life, he should never give up hope and say that he is a dry tree. Because just by virtue of being a Jewish soul it is evident that the essence of life remains in him. This was the issue with the tribe of Efrayim that made that mistake and were killed. So that through them we could see the Dry Bones returning to life.
The Dry Bones of the Bnei Efrayim DESIRED the חיות, they wanted to be revived and grow new flesh.
This is also what the midrash above states about the beginning of this week's parsha ״ולא נחם אלקים דרך ארץ פלשתים וכו׳״ (and Hashem did not lead them by way of the land of the Plishtim). That they they made a mistake and were killed by the Plishtim and became the Dry Bones. Their death had to come precisely through the Plishtim to learn from this that the essence of the hope for life comes through occupying oneself in Torah learning.
Like David Hamelech ע״ה writes at the beginning of Tehillim ״אשרי האיש וכו׳ ובמושב לצים לא ישב״ (praiseworthy is the man...and sat not in the session of scorners). We know from the Holy Seforim that the Plishtim are the Klippah of ליצנות (scorn) (Avoda Zara 19a).
The Klippah of ליצנות is the the one that makes us think "who cares, anyway I can never return to what I once was". And it's antidote is Torah Learning.
And we see in the Sefer Imrei Emes (parshas Ki Tetze) that if one will desire the Torah of Hashem and occupy himself in it day and night he will come to be ״כעץ שתול על פלגי מים אשר פריו יתן בעתו״ (like a tree planted by a stream of water that will give it's fruit in it's time). Through this even in one who is like a "dry tree" the "drop of sap" will be re-awakened like a tree planted by a stream and he will give his fruit in it's time. This is the issue of eating fruits and particularly dried fruits in Tu B'Shvat as a good and trustworthy sign for all of Yisrael.
The cure to revive an עץ היבש (dry tree) is an עץ החיים (Tree of Life), the Torah. And in the merit of our connection to Torah and our Torah learning may we merit the full and complete Geulah speedily and in our days עמן.