Why is Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for fruit trees, in the middle of the winter? It’s cold outside and barren-looking, trees definitely don’t look like they’re blossoming, and it just doesn’t seem like the time to celebrate a kind of Jewish Earth Day.
But like every other Jewish holiday, Tu B’Shevat is ripe with a unique spiritual potential, and this minor holiday’s hidden wisdom somehow becomes most readily accessible to us on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat. Most of the rain has fallen for the year in the land of Israel by this time, and the trees’ roots begin to drink it up right about now. This causes the life-giving sap in the trees to start to flow. But all we’re seeing from our windows are leafless-looking branches.
There’s a lot going on that we can’t see.
And that’s a silent message that these trees are giving us on Tu B’Shevat. Even if life appears lifeless, there is vital energy flowing deep within, unseen. And if we’re still alive, it can still be tapped.
The landscape may be covered with frozen vegetation, but gradually pushing up through the roots in the hardened ground, a miraculous natural force is beginning to stream up through each trunk, moving all the way out to into each of its branches. And this invincible push upwards is happening completely below the surface.
No matter what challenges we are facing in our lives, no matter how cut off we feel, or even how hopeless and deadened - when the world feels awfully cold - there is a Divinely designed life force that is amazingly able to flow within us too when it appears impossible.
When we make sincere efforts to help our family members, friends, students – or anyone, including ourselves, we may not see the fruits of our labor for a long time, but a very similar imperceptible movement upwards can be going on nevertheless. Not to sound sappy or anything, but Tu B’Shevat gives us the encouragement we need at just the right time to kind of branch out ourselves.
Bracha Goetz is the author of 24 Jewish children’s books: https://www.amazon.com/author/brachagoetz including Let’s Stay Safe, Let’s Stay Pure, and Remarkable Park.