The Fruit in You
What comes to mind when you think of a tree?
The solid, tall, textured trunk…
Branches extending to and through the sky in all directions…
Elegantly splayed leaves of all shapes, sizes, arrangements, and colors…
Sometimes adventurous roots that peak out of the ground’s surface…
And of course the succulent fruits that hide in bountiful clusters throughout the canopy.
We tend to focus on the planting and replanting of trees whether at home, in the community, or in the land of Israel during the Jewish Arbor Day (Tu B’shvat, the 15th of Shvat). Yet, there is so much to celebrate and enjoy when it comes to the fruits that trees gift us.
Just as we can dance and sing to mimic the uniqueness of different trees on Tu B’shvat, we see this Jewish holiday as a time to better understand our personalities and who we are in the world thanks to fruits.
One simple way to do this is to imagine ourselves as one of four types of fruits as inspired by the Kabbalistic scholars as they do in a Passover-like seder. Read the descriptions below and identify which one you relate to the most.
Hard exterior and interior (Example: nuts)
Strengths: External and internal protection, mentally and/or physically. These fruits are tough and can weather any storm. With a particularly dense nutrition profile in a small but mighty package, they can easily sustain themselves and others.
Challenges: This fruit might struggle with opening up to others and being vulnerable. While strong and protective, this can also come off as harsh or too defensive to others. As many nuts are known to cause allergies, they can also be seen as dangerous or threatening.
Soft exterior and hard interior (Examples: olives, dates, peaches, nectarines, plums)
Strengths: Ability to be vulnerable and take some risks in certain situations. Accessible and easy for others to approach. Sweet and juicy flavors provide fun and positive experiences for this fruit and those who interact with them. Solid emotional and internal protection.
Challenges: Due to the lack of external projection, this fruit can get hurt (emotionally/physically) easily. This combined with a hard interior can make it hard for this fruit to express its needs. Instead they keep to themselves even when they can use support and help.
Soft exterior and interior (Examples: apples, pears, strawberries)
Strengths: High ability to be vulnerable (physically and emotionally) and absorbs the world around them. Can be very sweet and consumed by others with ease. Brings joy to themselves and others.
Challenges: With the power of vulnerability comes sensitivity and risk of harm. Without any protection, this fruit can express itself freely. This can come at the cost of others’ comfort level and feelings at times.
Soft interior and hard exterior (Examples: pomegranate, lemons, oranges, grapefruits)
Strengths: Balanced with a powerful external protection and soft internal capabilities. This could translate into strong relationships with a few individuals and forging a meaningful path of work/life. Is able to succeed due to protective layer and choosing how to be vulnerable in the place they choose with the people they choose.
Challenges: A protective coating can make this fruit difficult to connect with since they shield what might be going on inside. This can result in a smaller community or group of friends because others won’t know how to access this fruit, and thus causing others to miss the opportunity to engage with an extraordinary fruit.
These descriptions can certainly be expanded upon and reinterpreted based on each person’s perspective; just as the Torah has countless commentaries from scholars across history and location and grows as the Tree of Life (Etz Chayim). However, taking these initial personality types based on fruits for what they are, feel free to take a moment to reflect on your connections to them with the following questions:
Was there one type of fruit you related to the most? Which one and why?
Are there certain situations or environments that change your answer? For example, are there times you’d rather have a hearty, protective peel of a lemon instead of a vulnerable skin of a peach?
Is there a particular fruit personality you’d like to try out in this new year? Why? How might you do this?
Feel free to use this exercise and share with your friends and family on Tu B’svhat this year on February 10-11, 2017.