While it may seem as if winter has just begun, it may be a good time to invoke a bit of optimism and look beyond the turbulent weather and remember that spring is just around the corner. You might wonder how a person can possibly think of spring at the present time, but, according to Jewish wisdom, now is precisely the time because Tu b’Shevat is the New Year for trees.

Today, Tu b’Shevat, literally, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, marks the official (halachic) start of spring in Israel, even though the weather is still cold. According to Jewish tradition, this is the day on which the long dormant sap in the trees (particularly the almond trees) begins to flow again.

Why is Tu b’Shevat celebrated as a holiday and elevated to the status of being one of the four New Years on the Jewish calendar? In Judaism, a holiday usually marks a day on which there is a unique connection between the spiritual and physical worlds and signals an event from which we can learn and grow.

Because of Tu b’Shevat, Jews around the world are given a moment to stop and think about the trees and the greenery around them. Spiritually, there is much that a person can learn from a tree. For instance, almost every person goes through a “spiritual winter,” a time in which it is hard to connect to God or to follow religious beliefs. According to tradition, deep within each Jew there is a pintele yid (Yiddish for a “little bit of Jewish spirit”). Like the frozen sap that is thawed by the coming of spring and brings new life to the tree, the pintele yid can be ignited by a spark of inspiration and revitalize the Jewish soul.

Some people follow the custom of eating special Israeli fruits and conduct a special Tu b’Shevat Seder. For more information on Tu b’Shevat or for an outline of a Tu b’Shevat Seder, please click here.

Copyright © 2021 NJOP. All rights reserved.