Thoughts this Tu Bishvat by Jodie Franks
Tu Bishvat is the celebration of the beginning of the new year for trees, in particular fruit trees. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Shvat, which was chosen because it marks the passage of four months since the rainy season in Israel has ended.
At this point, the ground water soaked into the soil from the previous rainy season has been used up. It may seem odd to us in England to celebrate a festival so intertwined with the cycle of nature in Israel but for me, Tu Bishvat fits into the wider context of the Israeli agricultural year, around which so many of our festivals are centred. Celebrating Tu Bishvat so far from Israel is an expression of hope to be in Israel and celebrate the festivals there, where Jewish culture and practice are in harmony with nature and the seasons!
In the 17th century, Jewish mystics created a ritual for Tu Bishvat, known as a Seder. Inspired by the Pesach Seder, four cups of wine are drunk, along with the four fruits which are eaten. Each fruit is said to represent a different aspect of the earth’s spirituality.
One of my favourite stories from the Talmud is about Choni the circle maker. Choni saw an old man planting a carob tree, which would not flower for 70 years. When he asked the old man why he was planting the tree, as he himself would not live to see the tree flower, the man answered “I am planting the tree not for myself, but for my grandchildren.” To me this story carries the central message of this beautiful festival: That we must celebrate and appreciate the world around us, and nurture it for the future.
Tu Bishvat sameach, happy Tu Bishvat!