The holiday of the 15th of Shevat (AKA Tu B’Shevat), observed this year on February 10-11, is known as the “New Year for Trees.” It is not simply the Jewish version of Arbor Day, but has actual implications in Jewish law. It is related to when the various agricultural commandments of the Torah are observed in Israel.
But more than that, the fact that this holiday is smack in middle of winter has a fascinating lesson for everyone, even those of us not living in Israel currently.
To some it might seem odd that a holiday celebrating trees and blooming takes place during the months of the year that most of us are snowed in and dealing with unbearable cold. I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense for this day to be observed on, say, the first day of spring? What is it about this date that makes it the beginning, or new year, for trees?
Technically, the 15th of Shevat is the midway point between the beginning of winter and spring; but still, what are we celebrating?
And the answer is just that. We commemorate the turning point; that moment when we can say that have made it through half of winter and we can now focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Once half the winter has passed, its grasp on us is no longer as strong as it was in the beginning, and the budding process—the potential for growth—can begin.
Yes, it is still cold and snowy out, but the groundwork for a warm and productive spring is already being laid.
And just as this is our attitude towards the cold and dark winter, the same should be the way we approach all of life’s challenges. We sometimes find ourselves stuck going through the motions without much of an end in sight. We might question what the purpose is and why we were put in a particular situation.
But we remember that beneath even the deepest darkness there is a light brewing and starting the process of shining through; that hiding behind the coldest and least inspiring moments is the warmth of life that can invigorate even the most uninspired.
So don’t let the gloomy winter get to you. Celebrate the beginning of the budding season, and warm yourself up. It can’t be much longer…
(This column also appeared in The Times of Israel.)