Today is ט׳׳ו בשבט (Tu B'Shvat) - 15th day of the month of Shvat. The Hebrew calendar uses letters for numbers (Gematria) and the letters ׳ט׳ ׳ו׳ are respectively 9 and 6. Together they make the number 15. Normally this number would be comprised of the number 5 ׳ה׳ and the number 10 ׳י׳. Since these two letters together are a written substitue for the name of God, the combination is not allowed to be used as a date.
In a nutshell (no pun intended) Tu B'Shvat is the holiday where Jews celebrate nature. Sometimes it is referred to as the Jewish Arbor Day but it is much more complicated than that and it is celebrated over the course of the week. In Israel, fresh fruit and dried fruit and almonds are eaten. Almonds because the almond tree is the only tree that bears fruit a month earlier than the rest - at this time of year. Fresh fruit and dried fruit, because they are the results of the harvest and were used as a measure of the tithe (1/10th) that was required to be given to the temple. Outside of Israel dried fruit is eaten because it can travel and Jews who traveled outside the Holy Land had to be assured that the fruit they ate was legit - kosher - and could be sourced back to the land.
So this was always a very good holiday when I was a kid. We ate lots of fun things and talked about trees and spent a little time - not enough - reflecting on the natural world.
Today on Facebook I saw two posts that made me want to unfollow some good publications: The Forward has an article "Why Most Jewish Environmentalism is useless..." and Kveller.com has an article "Why I Won't Be Reading the Giving Tree on Tu B'Shvat". The first deals with why today is a sham because we do not think about nature every day. The second claims that the story is too one-sided on the part of the human and doesn't represent the tree.
Oh for Pete's sake! Is there nothing that people won't find a reason to hate? Even if we can do better, dumping on Tu B'Shvat does not encourage global awareness of climate change and the ecological future. Not reading a book that conveys a sense of generosity - even if we stipulate it is one-sided - does nothing to encourage empathy. Let's all just not do anything but everything we do is imperfect.
So, I am going to imperfectly celebrate Tu B'Shvat. I have eaten some almonds and some fresh and dry fruit. I will go and tend to my plants. I will try to be more aware of water and the need to grow compatible crops. And...I will enjoy my בוסטן ("beautiful place" - usually referring to a large verdant garden).
I like my palm tree better than I like a lot of what I read on Facebook.
חג שמח לכולם.
Happy Tu B'Shvat to ya'll and especially to those socked in by the snow.