Do you ever feel like your life is spent just trying to make it through the week, or get beyond the next hurdle, or reach the next vacation? Does life sometimes seem like an exhausting never-ending grind—physically, mentally, and emotionally? Are you really living, or just surviving? What does it mean to really live anyway?
This Shabbos marks the convergence of two special celebrations: Tu B’shvat and Shabbat Shira. On a personal level, these two events teach us what we can tap into when we feel directionless and uninspired, that will rejuvenate us and guide us to true growth and fulfillment. In short, they teach us what truly living is all about.
The Torah compares the human being to a tree—specifically a fruit-bearing tree. What is the similarity between a person and a fruit-bearing tree?
A fruit tree is ultimately defined by the fact that others may benefit from its produce. Similarly, to live, according to the Torah, means not just to survive, which is about getting what we need, but to give: to be fruitful. Truly living means that our actions, that which we put out into the world, are productive and contribute in a meaningful way to society, in a way that makes the world a sweeter, kinder, more beautiful place.
A curious Midrash about the splitting of the sea involving a child yearning for fruit bolsters this message: Deep down, what our souls crave above all else is not physical pleasure, but meaning and purpose—which in turn provide us with immense emotional and spiritual pleasure.
Delving into an underlying lesson gleaned from Tu B’shvat and Shabbat Shira, this sermon explores the Torah’s best advice for escaping “survival syndrome” and attaining lasting happiness, pleasure, and fulfillment.