Tu BiShvat (Hebrew for the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) is the new year of the trees.
Tu BiShvat, called the "New Year of the Trees," falls at a seemingly incongruous time of year.
Tu BiShvat is a minor festival whose provenance dates only to the time of the Second Temple. However, the kabbalists who clustered around the great fifteenth-century mystic Isaac Luria of Safed placed great weight on the holiday, creating new festivities, gatherings at which hymns were sung, fruit (particularly carob) was eaten, and four cups of wine were taken (as in the Passover seder).
Mandelbrot means “almond bread” in Yiddish, but its origins are the biscotti cookies that were created in Italy more than 700 years ago. This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's book, Entree to Judaism for Families filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.
One favorite dish of the Ashkenazim that survived the move from the shtetl to North America was the hearty mushroom-potato-barley soup called krupnick.
Coming a month and a half before the spring equinox and two months before Passover, Tu BiShvat provides a glimmer of springtime at a time when winter can often be at its cruelest.
While my neighbors were putting their Christmas trees to the curb, in what seems like a ritual of replacement, I was preparing to plant for Tu BiShvat.
Tu BiShvat is a reminder that we spend our lives planting seeds. Time and effort are needed for our efforts to bear fruit. Wait patiently. One day, like the seed, we will be blessed.