Monday was Tu B’Shevat, and we observed it yesterday at HCRJ with a Lunch and Learn program. For those who were not able to join us for lunch yesterday, here is some of the content we discussed, and you might choose to read it during lunch today.
Tu B’Shevat is the day on the Jewish calendar which marks the beginning of a “New Year for Trees.” During this season in the Land of Israel, the earliest-blooming trees begin to emerge from their winter sleep and a new fruit-bearing cycle starts anew. While this may be difficult to imagine, as the past few days have been very cold, a stroll through the HCRJ parking lot reveals new pomegranates (which happen to be a native species of the ancient Israeli landscape).
A beautiful ancient custom related to Tu B’Shevat involves the planting of trees for children born during the previous year. Cedar trees were planted for boys (so the child would grow to be tall and upright), and cypress trees for girls (so the girl will grow to be graceful and fragrant). When the children grew, they used branches from their cypress and cedar trees to make the canopy (Hebrew: huppah) for their wedding ceremony.
Scholars believe that Tu B’Shevat was originally an agricultural festival, marking the emergence of spring. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, this holiday became a way for Jews in the Diaspora to nurture a sense of community and reinforce a connection to the Holy Land.
In our modern day experience of this “birthday for the trees”, Tu B’Shevat serves as a kind of Jewish Earth Day. Through recognizing the importance of trees, we take the time to appreciate the delicate ecological balance of the earth and dedicate ourselves to preserving it for generations to come.