Tu B’Shevat Higiah (Tu B’Shevat is coming!)

16 Jan

Tu B’Shevat Higiah (Tu B’Shevat is coming!)

Tu B’Shevat is here and for the past few weeks in thinking about the arrival of Tu B’Shevat I did a lot of wrestling and a little kvetching in search for a connection to the themes of this holiday.

During much of Jewish history, the only observance of this day was by eating fruit associated with the land of Israel. I’m not a big dried fruit and nut fan, (which is just a minor complaint). What bothers me more is that I have often found that Tu B’Shevat often gets translated into a celebrate Israel day, which feels far from the intended agricultural meaning of the holiday. While I am happy to celebrate the wonders of the land of Israel, I do not believe that Tu B’Shevat is about celebrating Israel as a sovereign nation. This is not the case for all Tu B’Shevat celebrations.

Many American Jews have turned this holiday into a Jewish environmental day, where the rituals of the Tu B’Shevat seder are used to remind us of our connection to the earth and our responsibility for caring for our environment. We recall a particular midrash on this day that teaches, that we are suppose to be partners with G-d in caring for all of G-d’s creations.

Our Kabbalistic tradition provides us with a spiritual twist to the holiday.  The tradition teaches to look at trees as symbols of human beings as we read in the book of Deuteronomy, “For a human is like the tree of the field” (Deut 20:19). For the Kabbalists, eating a variety of fruits on Tu B’Shevat is a way of improving our spiritual selves. Each fruit that one should eat is connected to four levels of creation. Through consumption we symbolically go through each of these levels in hope of awakening and nourishing our spiritual selves.

After much wrestling with what this holiday means, this year I have found that Tu B’Shevat resonates with me through the words of the poet Marge Piercy in her poem entitled, “New Year For The Trees.” Piercy’s poem tells it like it is. She begins her poem with these words, “It is the New Year of the Trees, but here the ground is frozen…” Our Trees are snoozing while in other parts of the world things have already begun to bloom. As Piercy’s poem continues, she writes about what is blossoming here. She calls us to pay attention to what aspects of nature are active right now playing their parts in the cycle of our own seasons. As we trudge our way through the cold, Piercy and Tu B’Shevat can awaken us to appreciate all that must occur in our winter season now so that we can rejoice in the buds and sparkles of spring in just a few months time.

To read Marge Piercy’s poem click here:

http://poetrypill.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-year-for-trees.html

Wishing everyone a Happy Tu B’Shevat…eat some fruit, hug a tree, breathe in some fresh air and be thankful for the inter-connectedness of all living things!

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