When I was little, I thought Tu B’Shevat was the coolest holiday EVER. I had a book called “The Birthday of the Trees” and I would read it all the time — it was about a little girl who wanted to make a birthday party for the trees. She even baked a cake.
Today, I appreciate the holiday even more. Today was the day the world began.
I know that sounds really counter-intuitive. I know I shared my vision for a new year already; I know that there can’t be more than one new year per year. But in Judaism, there are three — Rosh Hashana, Tu B’Shevat, and Pesach.
Today is Tu B’Shevat. The fifteenth of Shevat, the new year for the fruit of the trees.
We can learn a lot from Trees; we are really very similar to them in many ways. And in the ways that we aren’t, we should really strive to be more alike.
Trees have their roots planted firmly in the ground. As saplings, they grow in two directions; as their roots stretch and twist and swell from nourishment deeper and deeper in the ground, trees grow branches and leaves. They defy gravity while sinking into it at the same exact time.
A cross-section of human bone looks just like a cross-section of a tree. It has rings on the inside, rings to help nutrients penetrate to the core – to sink inside something that looks and feels so solid.
People too, defy gravity from the moment they are born, but still can’t overcome it. Our feet must be firmly planted at all times or we will lose our footing; even jumping from a high enough plateau; it will always bring us back to earth.
We are conditioned to reach for the skies, to ponder their depths and to look for answers. To use our limbs to reach out and up and grow — to stand on our tipy-toes to see what the world looks like from a slightly higher altitude.
On Tu B’Shevat, today, we can learn from trees. We can reach and reach and reach, higher and higher until we might topple over from standing so high. We can enjoy the fruits of our labors and the fruits that just appear because the rains fall just enough to give us G-d’s candy. We can harvest and reap and sow until our backs hurt and then just stand in the plowed fields stretching and reaching toward heaven.
Today is the birthday of the fruit of the trees. The start of the world and the beginning of a lesson that has been going on for centuries. A lesson about balancing earth and heaven, our heads and our hearts; how to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and still reach up, searching for more.