This is a second version of this same letter. It is not known to whom this letter was sent.

A man is “a tree of the field.”1 This implies that there is an important part of a person’s life which, with regard to certain matters, resembles the life of a plant. [Within a plant, there are the following elements:]

The roots — This corresponds to faith. Even though there is no place for [such a commitment] on the basis of intellect and reason, through [faith, a person] is connected to the source of his vitality, the Creator, blessed be He. Through this, his life-energy is drawn down even when he has already grown in wisdom and in [the observance of] the Torah and its mitzvos.

The trunk — This corresponds to [the observance of] the Torah and its mitzvos, the majority of the structure of a tree which grows from year to year. Faith [is constant]. [It] must be strong even when the person’s intellect is underdeveloped and his wisdom is modest. With regard to the Torah and mitzvos, however, [growth is desired]. A person should be “advanced in days,”2 i.e., every day he should increase his [observance of] the Torah and its mitzvos,3 for [it is written:]4 “Days are created.” [In them,] one should make oneself attractive before G‑d through the Torah and its mitzvos. [This observance]5 should be obvious to all onlookers and their beauty must be such that intellect [cannot but] acknowledge it.

There are mitzvos which branch into several [other] mitzvos, ([for example,] tzitzis [involves] four mitzvos, the Sanctuary includes within itself many mitzvos, e.g., [fashioning] the vessels, [offering] the sacrifices, like boughs which diverge into several smaller branches.

There are, however, merits which [produce] fruit, i.e., there is a type of mitzvos whose observance influences others. As [the Rambam] explains in his Commentary to the Mishnah6 with regard to the reason why we can benefit in this world “from the fruit” of mitzvos which help others: This is one of the purposes for man’s creation, to positively influence his fellow man, i.e., that his good deeds should be sown and produce fruit and the like.

If a person desires that the new growth be maintained, [he must realize that] everything is dependent on the seed. [The seed] lacks [both] flavor and aroma. [In the analogue, this means]: he is G‑d-fearing and speaks with mesirus nefesh, [motivated] by the point of faith which he possesses. (It is true that this must be hidden, as a seed is hidden in a fruit and a peel which do possess flavor and a [pleasing] appearance and fragrance. Nevertheless, the motivation for the person’s words and what endows them with vitality and fire must be his mesirus nefesh.) This will cause the seed to flourish into a large tree, bearing fruit and branches.

To summarize the above:

a) A person’s roots and his connection to the source of his vitality is only through [pure] faith, [as it exists] without any embellishment, decoration, or adornment. Even a slight weakness in faith weakens the existence of the entire tree, even if its trunk and branches are large and strong. For none of this will be at all effective if [the person’s] faith is not strong.

b) A person’s mission is to increase [his observance of] the Torah and its mitzvos every day, like a tree which continually grows and flourishes.... But within the trunk, the branches, and even the leaves flows the vitality which the roots derive from the earth — [in the analogue,] Kenesses Yisrael, the source for the soul — and send to the trunk and the branches to vitalize them. For while [observing] the Torah and its mitzvos, one must always remember the power of mesirus nefesh (Tanya, ch. 25). And with [his] faith, a person will enliven the totality of his [observance of] the Torah and its mitzvos.

c) But ultimately, a person’s ultimate purpose is to influence others. Before the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, all the trees produced fruit. And [similarly,] in the Future Era, all the shade trees will also bear fruit.

[The analogue points to] our Rabbis’ interpretation of the first mitzvah, [the mitzvah of] being fruitful and multiplying — a Jew must make another Jew.7

This is the ultimate perfection of a tree, when it is apparent that it has already sprouted forth fruit, providing seeds with which to grow another tree.

This is the lesson of Tu BeShvat, the New Year of the Trees. That first and foremost is the root, faith. Afterwards, comes the growth of the thickness and the height of the trunk — [i.e.,] an abundance and profusion of Torah and mitzvos. And the ultimate perfection is apparent in the quality of the fruit and the seed, i.e., a person enables a colleague to merit. [In that instance,] the merit of his colleague — or the public at large — is dependent on him and he reaches his desired perfection.