I have a certain affection for Tu B’Shevat – a Jewish holiday that arrives at sundown on Sunday, January 16th and ends on Monday, January 17th at sundown,(on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat). As a child growing up, it were the holidays of Passover with the big family seders, or walking a few miles to B’nai Shalom synagogue in Rockville Centre, NY while holding my father’s hand on Rosh HaShannah that I remember most. But it was a family UJA Young Leadership Family Trip to Israel in 1977 as an adult when after disembarking on the plane, two buses of families with jet lag, including my husband and I and four children ages 6,10,12,14 – rode to a forest area to plant seedlings in Israel.
Through my own research to learn more about Jewish holidays for a series of collage work called Rituals, Tu B’Shevat – the holiday of new trees caught my imagination. I loved the idea of how it brought attention about the mitzvah to be good stewards of our planet Earth. And in my new collage, I expressed that moment in Israel of planting a small tree. Today, with global warming as an existential threat worldwide, as people here in Atlanta and in places around our country are planting trees, recycling, composting, planting, all to reclaim and nurture, Tu B’Shevat raises awareness about the magic and beauty of what God created. We become partners with the Almighty. This is a time to also pray for a good rainy season in Israel, to insure a bountiful fall harvest. We welcome the first blossoms of the almond tree in Israel, a signal that spring is coming soon.
The year’s Jewish calendar is full of beautiful ways to celebrate what is good in this world – Tu B’Shevat is one of them. And there are even Tu B’Shevat Seders where specific foods are eaten in a certain order. And not to forget this is the Shmita year where taking care of our land is paramount. Check a local synagogue to see what programs or events they’re offering for the holiday. Sign up to plant a tree. Or simply purchase a new plant. Bring it into your home, water it, take care of it. Happy Tu B’Shevat!