Spring is technically weeks and week away. But little signs of it are popping up all around. It is subtle. But those signs are there. From longer days to little green shoots coming from the ground-Spring is on the way.
Tu B’shvat celebrates the first first first signs of Spring in Israel: the blossoming of the almond tree. Like the gorgoeus cherry blossoms we see later in the Spring around these parts, almond blossoms are light in color and oh so delicate! It is this newness, the first of the firsts, of this delicate fruit bearing tree that we gather together to honor. Spring is a season associated with freshness, newness and hope. Renewal. But late winter? What is our association with late winter? In the PNW or even in Jerusalem or Haifa, this is a time of cold and dark and wet and for many, gloom. We need this little almond blossom. We need Tu B’shvat. To remind us, not when everything is bright and shiny and in full bloom, but rather right here and now, that life springs eternal.
We Jews are good at looking past our current circumstances towards a better place and time. Every prayer service ends with this vision of a true Etereal Spring. A place of all beauty and no death or decay. We hang on, desperately at times, to signs and symbols and cycles of life that remind us that we are part of an ongoing transformation, never ending possibility and that no matter how stuck we feel, we are actually always moving forward. We are the almond blossom. We are the rooted tree. We are the branches. We are the seed. We are truly the fruit.
A month out from Purim, two months out from Passover, three months out from Shavuot...Tu B’shvat welcomes us into a season of joy and resistance and strength. The word in Hebrew for almond is SHAKED which at its root (שקד) means: to be eager, alert, awake, diligent, ready to act. The tiny little blossom arrives and whispers in our ears like the most skilled of yoga teachers easing a class out of shevasana/dead persons pose: “it is now time to wiggle your fingers and toes and to start to rock from side to side to prepare to wake up.”
With Tu B’shvat we ease our way out of winter and into a place of new life. This has been our way for thousands of years. Whether celebrating in the northern hills of ancient Israel or the concentration camps of Poland, we have watched the natural world around us for signs and symbols of hope. We have been pulled by God’s/the Universe’s constancy-this is the pull of the life force. It costs you nothing. Just observing and celebrating it gives an infusion of life force.
So come and celebrate Tu B’shvat this weekend with Kol Ami. Or wherever you might find yourself. At Kol Ami this year we have designed celebrations and hands on Tikkun Olam efforts for people of all ages and stages. Life is made increasingly meaningful when we celebrate it—the transitions and transformations happening around us and within us. Judaism exists to give us more life, more joy, more peace. May you find all of these things inside and around you at this special season. 1. Kabbalat Tu B’Shvat Seder 7:30 this Friday night
2. Tu B’shvat Tikkun Olam Earth Restoration and Planting 12-3 Crestwood Park Kirkland
Go to the events section of our website to find out more info.
Rabbi Kinberg Please enjoy these three links! One is for a song about almond blossoms. One is more info about why our ancestors chose the almond blossom. And one is recipes for Tu B’shvat that are almond-centric!