Here is the quintessential Jewish question: How do we emulate God? We are told that we were created by God. We are told that we have a divine spark within us.
"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.
My commute to work every morning is not typical. I drive through the Roaring Fork Valley with majestic, now snow-covered, mountains on my left and my right. The sky is often a clear, bright blue, and the sun glimmers off the powdery snow that shifts in the wind. I am the cantor at the Aspen Jewish Congregation, and I certainly feel blessed to live and work in such a beautiful place. This quote from Isaiah is particularly fitting for this part of the country, as the people here are very in touch with the nature around them - often finding their spiritual center while skiing a run or hiking in the hills.
Tu BiShvat, the birthday of the trees (or the new year of the trees) is a minor Jewish holiday.
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.