Did you notice the huge, beautiful full moon on Friday night? Friday night-Saturday was Tu B’Shevat, the full moon in the middle of the Jewish month of Shevat. This date is celebrated in Judaism as the “New Year” or “Birthday” of the trees. We celebrate by eating fruits and nuts that come from trees. We also say blessings thanking the Source (agricultural and theological) of those fruits for sustaining us for another year.
Sometimes Jewish agricultural holidays feel out of sync to me, living in New England rather than Israel. There, Tu B’Shevat is the time when the rainy season is ending, sap is starting to rise, and the earliest-fruiting trees, the almonds, are beginning to flower. Here, it falls in the deepest part of winter, when we sometimes have to consider whether or not to cancel our celebration because of bad weather. (This year, it was about 15 degrees, with a windchill around 6.)
But Tu B’Shevat is not bitter; it’s quite sweet. As we’re trying to eat more seasonally, all-you-can-eat oranges and pineapple are a real treat for a body that’s been subsisting mostly on root veg, kale and cabbage! The holiday wakes up the senses and reminds me that spring is right around the corner. The phone is starting to ring for those spring planting jobs; we’re meeting up at new England Grows this week; it’s time to start seeds!
Speaking of seeds, one custom on Tu B’Shevat is to start parsley seeds, which will grow over the next two months into the greens used for the Passover Seder. In the context of the exodus from slavery, parsley symbolizes freedom. How much more beautiful that symbol is when we have planted and watered the seeds of our own new beginnings.