I was so set on putting up Part 2 of my Shabbat post, that I did not post on Tu B’Shevat on Tu B’Shevat… My bad.
Even though it was a week ago, it is still a conversation worth having. So let’s start with what it is… It’s a holiday that happens on the 15th day of the month of Shevat and is also known as “Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot,” the New Year of the Trees.
Today it seems to be more known as “an ecological awareness day” where part of the celebration is to plant trees. As a kid I always laughed at the whole tree planting thing. It began to hit home as I grew up and understood the true desert landscape of Israel, and really hit me on a soul level when I was actually IN Israel… And no, I did not find my trees!
While the holiday is not mentioned in the Torah, there are several customs associated with it.
According to Judaism 101: “One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day, or to eat from the Seven Species (shivat haminim) described in the Bible as being abundant in the land of Israel. The Shivat Haminim are: wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (honey) (Deut. 8:8).”
They continue to say that “In the 16th century, kabbalists, developed a seder ritual conceptually similar to the Pesach (Passover) seder, discussing the spiritual significance of fruits and of the shivat haminim. This custom spread primarily in Sephardic communities, but in recent years it has been getting more attention among Ashkenazim. Aish.com provides a traditional text for this seder.”
In the Seder we learn that Rashi explains: “When the Land of Israel will give fruit bountifully, this is an indication of the impending redemption, and there is no greater indication than this.”
In my mind, this is a beautiful notion… the more thriving Israel is, the closer we all are to redemption.
Two things immediately come to my mind, showing the ingenuity and brilliance of Israel.
The first was when I stood at Misgav Am, the amazing kibbutz that sits high on a mountain overlooking both Syria and Lebanon. Israel was green and lush… Lebanon especially was arid and dry and brown. It just did not look alive, other than a school we were told was used to hide weapons, etc.
The other thing that immediately popped into my mind is less pleasant, and borders on the political, but I think it needs to be said. If you follow world news, you know that Cape Town, South Africa is in a drought even worse than ours, and that the entire water system is weeks away from being completely shut off. As “Day Zero” looms, I learned that Israel offered its help and two years ago was planning on attending the Mail & Guardian Water Conference. Because of Israel’s involvement, BDS protested and celebrated joyously getting the event cancelled. Cape Town may RUN OUT OF WATER… Israel has the expertise to help… and THIS is what the BDS does. It is shocking and sad, and yet I guess, in a way, deserved if this is how they behave.
Israel is a magical place. What the country has done with barren land is nothing short of miraculous. Trees are life. Trees are miracles.
Think about it.
You take a seed or an acorn and put in the ground. That seed has no fruit, no limbs, no bark, and yet, if it is taken care of and loved and watered and fed and nurtured, it grows… it becomes tall and proud… it has limbs that reach to the sky, bark to protect it, and fruit to nourish us… to feed us… and to feed others.
This is why we plant… literally and metaphorically…
A tree is a child we give to the world. A tree is something we share.
And so last week we celebrated trees… and we celebrated the miracle of a tree. It is also the miracle of Israel itself… and the dream of redemption. So Happy New Year To The Trees. I hope you had a celebratory and wonderful Tu B’Shevat… and I hope we all continue to grow and thrive and bare fruit that we share with the world.