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).
According to traditional Jewish belief, the Sabbath has its origin in God’s divine command to observe the seventh day as a day of rest and sanctification.
Winter weighs on the soul of this author. She finds comfort, though, in the moon cycles and their symbols, laden with meaning, healing, comfort, and inspiration.
Shabbat Tzedek, observed annually the weekend before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is an opportunity for congregations and members to celebrate the achievements of movements for racial justice, and to look toward the challenges ahead.