I’ve written before about my little obsession with Tu Bishvat, and how it’s the one holiday I’ve always gone out of my way to celebrate, even back in the day when going to synagogue was something I generally did on a twice-a-year basis. A big part of my love affair with this holiday has to do with the fact that it’s all fun and no obligation. Purim, for example, is fun as well, but who has time to put together all those misloach manot baskets? And while one could argue that Sukkot has its festive moments, the whole constructing a temporary hut process kind of detracts from the joy.
Tu Bishvat, however, is easy to pull off. Have a meal, plant a tree (which you don’t even have to do yourself—there are plenty of organizations that facilitate the planting of trees in Israel), and you’re golden. There are no services to attend. There are no restrictions involved. Just eat, drink, and be merry.
But it’s more than that. I think my love affair with Tu Bishvat has very much to do with its timing. As an often tired, strung-out mom, nothing zaps my energy more than constant cold weather. So the fact that Tu Bishvat comes smack in the middle of winter helps me snap out of my seasonal funk. At a time when warm weather seems oh-so-far away, Tu Bishvat serves as my personal reminder that spring is coming, and that when it does, trees will grow, warmth will return, and I won’t feel like a prisoner cooped up in my own home.
Furthermore, Tu Bishvat offers a refreshing sense of rejuvenation that harks backs to the holiday’s meaning and roots (um, no pun intended). According to biblical law, Israel is bound by a 7-year agricultural cycle that concludes with a sabbatical year. Due to the laws that apply throughout the cycle, it became important to establish when each new year began for produce. It was determined that any fruit that blossoms before the 15th day of Shevat would be considered fruit of the previous year, whereas if it blossomed afterward, it would be considered fruit of the new year.
Although the Jewish New Year begins on Rosh Hashanah, I love the fact that we also get a new year for trees and fruit—because a new year symbolizes new hopes, new beginnings, and new things to look forward to. At a time when the weather is cold, the skies are often dreary, and the days are cut so drastically short, I need something to look forward to; Tu Bishvat reminds me that it’s out there. All I need to do is be patient.
So this year, as I’ve done in the past, I’m hoping to go all out for Tu Bishvat. I want to host a seder, read books about the holiday with my children, sing songs, and maybe even plant a tree. I want to enjoy a celebratory day of renewal, and use it to garner enough energy to carry me through the remainder of winter, until the days get longer, the nights get warmer, and we’re blessed with the light of spring.