Sometimes I wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  It happens on occasion that without warning, in the middle of a day, I find myself off kilter, something is not feeling right.  I can’t seem to put my finger on it.  

If I dig deep, I can often put my finger on the source of this discomfort.  Just as likely though, I either don’t dig deep or can’t really seem to find the source.

In recent months and years, as both neuroscience has evolved and as a deeper understanding of Chabad philosophy comes to light, I have found some relief.

Tu B’shvat, the celebration of the New Years for trees marked this coming Monday adds some depth to the relief.

When a seed gets planted in the earth, before it begins to grow, it rots.  It’s quite the paradox; in order to grow, I need to rot.  Not rot, in a bad way like I become less than.  Rot in a good way, I get perspective.  

As long as I’m feeling cocky, feeding my ego, thinking that I am G-d, any growth is going to be limited and fallible, very fallible.   But a little humility becomes a spring board for growth.

Those uncomfortable feelings I’m experiencing are my humanity.  It’s my animals’ reminder that it is an animal and that it needs tending, love and connection.  It doesn’t have to have an explanation any less than a little puppy or kitty cat that is crying needs love or when my little child is whiny and kvetchy.

When I accept that there is a part of me that is still a child, still a little puppy, and will always be that way, I experience humility.   That humility is the rotting that is needed before the tree sprouts forth. 

So I may be a big shot (or as my uncle Schwarzie used to say “a legend in my own mind”), but I am suddenly and without warning reminded that I’m still a child, I still have this little animal inside and that I have plenty more work to do.

The Torah says that “man is the tree of the field”.  As Tu B’shvat approaches, this is a good reminder to remember that in order to produce happy and healthy fruit, I need to occasionally have some rot and embrace my limitations.

Have a good Shabbos and Happy Tu B’shvat

Rabbi Mendel Schusterman

Thanks to my brother, Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman,  of Chabad Intown, Atlanta for sharing the above thought.