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).
It is a mitzvah to celebrate in the sukkah. While the Torah instructs us to live in the sukkah for seven days, many choose to only eat meals in the sukkah. When eating or reciting kiddush in the sukkah, recite this blessing:
This recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion's recipe for Bakery Date Squares.
My husband introduced me to techina (tahini), a staple found in most Israeli kitchens, as soon as we made aliyah in 1992.
I consider myself an environmentalist. I write about the earth, think about the earth, care about the earth. I wrote my rabbinical thesis partly on Judaism and the environment, and I helped found en environmental advocacy committee in my synagogue.