Posts Tagged 'Tu B’Shvat'

The Dreaming Tree: A Reflection on Tu B’Shvat and Time

Louis Pasteur wisely said, “No one is more the stranger than himself <sic> at another time”. This seems accurate in that our experience of ourselves is perplexing. It also rings true in that our experience of time is often beyond our grasp.

I was thinking about this today is Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for the trees. This is a holiday that signals the start of spring in Israel. This is supposed to coincide with the budding of the first almond blossoms. While our frosty lunar based solar mash-up calendar might not totally align to the coming of spring, it is interesting to see how looking at trees shift our experience of time itself.

We all have that experience as children of counting the rings of a tree stump and being told that each ring represents another year of the tree’s lives. Like us the tree grows a little every year and it is hard to perceive. Shifting our focus to tree’s today push us to understand our perception of time.

I was thinking about this idea this morning when I woke up seeing The Dreaming Tree by Dave Matthews. What can I say he was the music of my teens? Here take a listen for Tu B’Shvat:

On a simple level it is a song about change, about the course of life, it’s about the world and it’s dangers when you are no longer a child with no worries, and about people who lose their sense of imagination as they grow old. There are a lot of things we take for granted in our lives, such as our childhood. In the song he says:

Below it he would sit
For hours at a time
Now progress takes away
What forever took to find

And now he’s falling hard
And feels the falling dark
How he longs to be
Beneath his dreaming tree

Some people treasure the things that are important in life, while other people take those same things for granted, not realizing what is truly valuable. The bystander didn’t really care about the tree it had no significance to him, but the old man treasured it for it reminded him of so many memories for him. The Dreaming Tree represents “a moment froze in time”. On today, Tu B’Shvat, we pause to see how trees help us experience time slower and in turn helps us treasure what matters most.


Almond Blossom: Tu B’Shvat And Wintering

Today is Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for the trees, signals the start of spring in Israel. This is supposed to coincide with the budding of the first almond blossoms. While our frosty lunar based solar mash-up calendar might not totally align to the coming of spring, it is interesting to note how the almond blossom is the sign of spring coming.

This gets particularly interesting in light of the custom to eat pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah, the “real” New Year. On a simple level as we go into the season of accounting we hope to be in the black. On Rosh Hashanah we eat the seeds of a pomegranate and say, ” May it be Your will, HaShem, our God and God of our ancestors, that our merits increase as the seeds of the pomegranate. ” On a deeper level as we start the fall season eat the pomegranate seeds as a reenactment of Persephone’s return from Hades, we connect to this first taste of spring. Just as Persephone has to spend half the year with Hades because she tasted the seeds of this tree, with the budding of the almond blossom we prepare for her return of spring. These trees bookend winter with fall and spring.

Before we leave winter and Hades we should take a moment to sit in that experience. Recently a student of mine suggested that I read Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat by Katherine May. It was the right book at the right time for me to lean into this our second winter of Covid. I would recommend it.

There she writes:

Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.


As we reflect on winter, Covid, isolation from community, the rise of hate crimes and anti-Semitism, and the banality of evil, we need to take this moment to sit in the cold and bask in the rest and retreat of winter. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who’s birthday we celebrate today, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” Now more than ever we need to winter and to give some deep thought as to transformation that we want to struggle for in this world. Merry Tu B’Shvat.

Tu B’Shvat Time: Turning the Corner

I am sure that I am not alone in my experience of time being distorted during Covid and the Trump Administration. I have the peculiar feeling that a day lasts a week, but in retrospect a week passes in what feels like a day. I often have had the feeling we are stuck in an endless road trip. I find myself peering out the window looking for road signs. I am waiting to see any indication that we are getting closer to the off ramp from this highway. And did I mention I have to pee?

Colorado Changes 420 Mile Marker Sign to Ward Off Heists

With vaccines in circulation, it seems that we might turn the corner on Covid-19 at some point. Since the shockingly peaceful transfer of power on Inauguration day, it feels these Bernie Memes are road signs indicating that we are almost there.

With the advent of Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for the Trees, we get our first glimpse of spring. We see the end of the school year and the start of the camp season are on the horizon.  In the Chasidic community, there is a custom where some pickle or candy their etrog (citron) from Sukkot and eat it on Tu B’Shvat. The Bnei Yissaschar, 19th Century Chassidic master, shares an interesting lesson. He teaches:  

On Tu B’Shevat one should pray for a beautiful, perfect, kosher etrog at the time it is needed for the mitzva. This is the day when the sap rises in the trees according to the merits of each member of Israel, and how good and pleasant it is that one pray on this day, the foundational moment of new growth. (Shevat, Discourse 2:2

We should plan in Sukkot for Tu B’Shvat and pray on Tu B’Shvat for an etrog for Sukkot. If we plan and pray we will be rewarded with sweetness and beauty.  There is splendor in this practice that is inviting us to be intention with our time year-round. What an important lesson to awaken us from the malaise of our Covid stupor. That itself seems to be something important to learn for our current situation. This attunement is a Covid-Keeper- something I would like to keep long after Covid is vanquished.

Have a wonderful time on Tu B’Shvat- Shana Tova 

What is Driving Us?

This week we will celebrate Tu B’shvat the New Year for the Trees. While Rosh HaShanah is our yearly check in on how we have been as people in the previous year, Tu B’Shvat has come to be our yearly check in on how we have been to the environment. I have to be honest in saying that I have not been that good this past year.

When I reflect on the course that we are on, I am fearful that we are imitating this week’s Torah portion. Like Pharaoh, we have hardened our hearts. We are unwilling to imagine a different way of living. Will we drive ourselves to the bottom of our seas looking for fossil fuels?

In Pharaoh’s manic search for the escaping Israelite slaves he drives his chariots in to the dried up bed of the Red Sea. But, even before God brings down the walls of water, the wheels come off. Even if they wanted to turn around and get out, it is too late. Rashi comments that it was the heat from God’s Pillar of fire that melted the wheels off. What is the point of no return for our society? Are we doomed to collapse? What is driving us?

This year for Tu B’Shvat, let us all think about ways in which we can change our lives and help the world around us. This is the only world we have, there is no spare. It is not a good time to get  stuck with a flat tire.

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