21 Jan, 2019

Tu BiShvat: Brotherhood Starts at the Roots

21 Jan, 2019
Moshe Lencer

Think about a chapter as if it’s a tree. It is originally planted as a seed (interest group) by the founding fathers, who wish to one day come back and enjoy its fruits. They start something that they know they will nearly never see at its prime. But with that, they put in a lot of effort, caring, time and emotion.

How can trees help us better understand our chapter? Let us explore this metaphor further.

Monday, January 21 (sundown, Sunday 20 – Monday 21) marks the beginning of Tu BiShvat, which is usually explained as the “birthday” of all fruit trees. A few things are of note about this holiday that separates it from others: It’s the first of the “Winter” Jewish holidays. The name translates literally to the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat. In ancient times (before AEPi), Tu BiShvat was designed to help Jewish farmers establish exactly when they should bring their fourth-year produce of fruit from recently planted trees to the Temple as first-fruit offerings.


Four years may not seem like a lot of time. And by many estimations, college years blow right by. But those four years spent in school will likely have the most transformative effects on our development. The work you will put into improving the chapter in-turn improves you, and maybe more than you realize.

There is a saying in the Talmud:

“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

Which means just this, the fact that you might not see it at its glory does not dismiss you from working hard in trying to get there.

These are the reasons that Founding Father classes have every student from a first-semester freshman to the last semester senior (or super seniors), everyone joins to plant this tree and put in as much as they have.

Because Brotherhood starts at the roots. It starts with us.

Seeing the importance of this perhaps lesser celebrated holiday (at least in the US), AEPi is sending 150 chapters our “Tu Bishbox”, complete with fruits, goodies and a customized Tu BiShvat Haggadah (AEPi style), aptly entitled: Brotherhood Starts at the Roots.

This box (similar to subscription boxes you have seen recently growing in popularity), will help brothers contextualize their Judaism, the chapter and their own holiday experience through immersive learning. Please speak with your Jewish Identity chairman about the arrival of the box in the mail.

Having said that, I’ll leave you with this:

Once trees sprout and grow into small plants, so too do our interest groups into colonies. This is the stage of growth where the chapter buckles down and works harder than ever to become harvestable, or something worth joining. A chapter that contributes to the Jewish community that it holds dear.

After which, the most important parts of the tree are noticeable: its trunk and branches frame its character and its path. It is easy to alter a chapters path when it starts growing, but once it is a firm tree it is difficult to reshape. The key here is to mold your chapter correctly. Any tree adjusts to its surroundings and so does the chapter, for better or for worse. This is why your role is the most important. We must be consistent throughout the generations.

The book of Jove says “The waters wear the stones”, onto which the famous Rabbi Akiva adds, the water wears the stone not due to its force, but due to its persistence”.

Remember: Brotherhood starts at the roots. It starts with us.


More about Moshe

As AEPi’s Director of Jewish Enrichment and Education, Moosh loves helping brothers learn more about their identity, specifically their Jewish one, through immersive and educational experiences. So stay on the lookout to more exciting things to come!

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