January 13, 2014
Happy New Year! (It's Tu B'Shvat)
Most of us are familiar with Rosh Hashanah as the Jewish New Year, but one of the three other Jewish new years is Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for the Trees. Although it is a minor holiday, it is important and a favorite of Jewish children around the world.
The importance of trees as a vital resource and food source is obvious. It should come as no surprise then, that Judaism has many laws to govern the use of trees. According to Jewish Law, fruits from trees younger than a certain age may not be consumed or otherwise used. Historically, Tu B'Shvat was used as a calendar marker to calculate the age of the trees for their legal use.
It should also be no surprise that trees play a spiritual role in Judaism. For example, varieties of trees are symbolic in Judaism for both their foliage and fruit, including date palms, pomegranate trees, olive trees and etrog (citron) trees.
I will always associate Tu B’Shvat with renewing a personal connection with nature. I remember how when I was a boy, my school class would always have some sort of outing to learn about and plant trees in honor of Tu B’Shvat. We sang songs and were reminded that now was also a good time to plant a tree in Israel through the JNF.
Tu B’Shvat is an excellent opportunity reconnect with nature, renew our appreciation for nature and remember to take care of our environment. If it's not too cold, it is a great opportunity to go on a nature hike, plant a tree with our children and teach them about trees. And by all means, eat some good tree nuts and fruit!!!
As a side note, I have a special love of fruit trees. I plant them wherever I find room. Apple, pear, plum, peach, mango, orange, lemon, mandarin, grapefruit, pomelo, lime, kumquat, loquat, cherimoya, white sapote… I love to plant them, watch them grow and enjoy their fruits.
I also love etrog trees. In recent years, I have planted the seeds of several etrogs following Sukkot. The result is that I am now an etrog farmer of sorts, caretaker of scores of trees of several varieties of etrog. It will still be a year or two before the oldest of these will begin to bear real fruit but I am waiting patiently.
Here are some images of my homegrown etrog trees, in various stages of maturity.
Seedlings from last Sukkot still in seed pots
This one has a flower!
This etrog tree is 4 years old and has a "bushy" disposition.
Oh, by the way. We also have some cool tree themed jewelry we want to show you in honor of Tu B’Shvat.
A lovely silver Tree of Life pendant
This 3D silver tree of life pendant has a chai inside. It is also reversible.