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Why celebrate trees when it's so cold outside?Tu Bishvat is coming!

01/12/2022 03:43:00 PM


Rishe Groner

It’s below freezing outside, most of the trees have lost their leaves, and it’s hard to imagine the blossoming flowers of spring when there’s such a chill in the air.

But in the Hebrew calendar, we are coming up to the 15th day of Shvat - known for the sound of the Hebrew letters that signify the number fifteen, “ט”ו”, “Tu”, so we call it “Tu BiShvat”.

It’s a day that marks the halfway point of winter towards spring, and is designated by our Rabbinic tradition as one of the four Rosh Hashanahs - New Year dates in Judaism. It’s the date that our agricultural ancestors used in the ancient land of Israel to mark the “birthday” of their trees and plants, an important date when so much of the Jewish practices were centered around planting fields and trees, donating percentages of the fruit to the poor and the priesthood, and celebrating nature with pilgrimage festivals.

Even though it’s freezing outside, this is the day that our Sages say that the sap begins to rise in the frozen ground, and the trees uptake the resources they will need to start budding and blooming once the summer begins.

It’s a moment that helps us feel the joy and potential of what the next year can bring, even though it feels cold and a little gloomy outside.

Tu Bishvat was celebrated by the Kabbalistic mystics of Tzfat in the 16th century as a moment of honoring the connection between humans and nature, and a way to recognize the mystical qualities of the fruits that we eat through a special Seder. In recent years, the return of Jewish environmental activism has evolved Tu Bishvat into an Earth Day celebration, as we resolve to do better to protect and care for the nature that surrounds us.

At BHA, we are a community deeply dedicated and devoted to nature. On Shabbats, we go on Soul Strolls (happening this Saturday morning!) and this year, our Kabbalat Shabbats and High Holiday prayers were uplifting and inspiring in the great outdoors. Our Masa students spend all their time outdoors, in the gorgeous forests of Beacon and in our very own BHA backyard. Our preschoolers are at home in the garden and around the fire pit, and our community is dedicated to doing what we can to support activism around climate change.

Nature is an opportunity for us to enhance our spiritual connection to the Divine; and to take more responsibility around our impact on our precious resources as humans. We’re looking forward to celebrating Tu Bishvat this year at BHA, with a spectacular Havayah experience for children on Sunday January 16th (register here!) and an evening Seder around the fire (register here!).

 It’s been a rough year with less time to be together than usual, and it’s still hard with freezing temperatures and a raging pandemic. And yet, Tu Bishvat reminds us that even in the dark of winter, nature is preparing herself for the beauty of the spring that is to come. As we do our best to gather in the cold this coming Sunday, let’s use this as a sneak peek of the beauty that is to come as we get together in our community and keep warm in our hearts (and with many thermal layers!).

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783