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).
Derived from central Europe, the popular kichlach (Yiddish for "cookies") are to be found in many of the packages prepared by parents for their children serving in the Israeli military.
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.
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.