Blessings to all this new month of Shevat – a month of hidden possibilities, a time of sap rising deep within trees (at least in Israel) creating the pre-conditions for fresh leaves and new fruits come spring. Tomorrow evening, at the time of the full moon, we gather around our tables (virtual and literal) and eat our way through a pile of different nuts and fruits. How fun and yummy is that?!? (True story: One year in Germany, my daughters and I collected 32 unique fruits and nuts for our Tu B’Shevat Seder!) Tu B’Shevat embodies knowing that we reap what we sow, and reminds us that now is the time for planting (again, at least in Israel, or in little pots inside on our window sills) and investing in the future we yearn for, for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren and friends.
It is possible to embrace this holiday in so many different ways. The very diversity of practices available is one of the juiciest aspects of Judaism, in my opinion (pun intended). Once, essentially no more than a ‘tax cutoff date’ (fruits before this date belonged to the old tax year, fruits after to the new tax year), Tu B’Shevat became transformed, at a later juncture, into a mystically-infused holiday with a focus on the four worlds of experience (physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual) and, more recently, also into a tree-planting holiday, as well as an environmental consciousness-raising Jewish-style Earth Day.
Personally, I embrace each new holiday and what it has to offer with gratitude for the wisdom of the Jewish cycle of time – whether I am ‘feeling it’ yet, or not. Thus, in a moment of despair in deep winter, I lean into Chanukka and choose to affirm my belief in the possibility of miracles. Or as Shavuot approaches, and with it the opportunity for new revelation (Torah), I work hard to stay open to perhaps hearing exactly what I need to hear this time around. And as Tu B’Shevat nears, I delight in the deep roots which have continued to nourish our community throughout this challenging time of ‘zooming’ through a pandemic, curious about which fruits this year of virtual celebrating together will bring as we slowly, cautiously, and consciously – G!d-willing – move into a new Jewish cycle of being able to celebrate in-person, perhaps, by late spring or beyond. Here’s hoping!
However you celebrate Tu B’Shevat this year, I invite you to spend time out in nature expressing gratitude for the cycle of life, for the bounty that this Earth continues to gift us, for the enduring nature of Life itself. As we celebrate this renewal of life and inner possibility, and as we munch down on different kinds of fruits and nuts – ones with hard shells and soft insides, ones with soft outsides and hard insides and ones with soft outsides and soft insides – may we recommit to living as partners with the land, as we breathe in the oxygen that trees breathe out and breathe out the carbon dioxide that trees breathe in and give back to us as oxygen: A magical, mystical, life-giving dance of beginnings and endings, giving and receiving, rest and creation. Happy planting!