It is a truth universally acknowledged that it can be difficult to be Jewish at Christmas time. It has seeped into North American cultural consciousness so thoroughly that South Park even wrote a song about it, complete with trademark expletives.
"Tu" (the Hebrew abbreviation of 15th) in the month of Shvat was set (Hillel's opinion generally overrules Shammai's) as the beginning of the tithable year for tree fruit: Calculating the tithe on fruit starts again for fruit that sets after that date.
Accompanying student groups to the Kotel repeatedly reminds me that Israel is a place like none other. On my most recent trip, I got another reminder of that fact.
Tu BiShvat (Jewish Arbor Day) is the time of year when Israeli schoolchildren plant trees. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a teacher instituted the tree-planting custom.
When a wildfire leveled my home when I was 20, I fell into a deep depression. Later, when I began to re-engage, I started to associate my emergence with Tu BiShvat.
Miraculously, a delicate network of threads is emerging amongst us, linking us heart to heart.