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.
Every year, the season of reflection and renewal is culminated by the celebration of Simchat Torah (literally “the rejoicing of the Torah”).
I did not have a typical Reform Movement upbringing, and would say that the three years I lived on an island in Alaska are probably most emblematic of that.
Thanks to social media and electronic devices you can check in on Foursquare and read the Mishkan T'filah prayer book on a handheld device at the same time. Yet for all the modern inventions, the Torah remains unaffected.
I’ve come to the conclusion we need to change the date of Simchat Torah. Our Jewish festivals must be re-envisioned as inspirational community gatherings of joyful spiritual Jewish celebration. Every single festival needs to be a time of great community involvement and meaning.
I love Tu BiShvat’s low-key preparation: no sermons, no sukkah, and no kitchen turned upside down. Quick trips for food and wine, and I’m all set.
Our role as custodians and stewards of God’s earth is to protect and preserve the ecology and environment as best we can.
In this moment of transition, we will celebrate a different kind of new beginning: Tu BiSh’vat, the new year for trees. Tu BiSh’vat is an opportunity to celebrate the earth and to recommit ourselves, for another year, to environmental action.