Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tu Bishvat

You've gotta love this country...they have special food for almost every holiday. A lesser holiday, but still one to celebrate with sweets, is Tu Bishvat; it's kinda like Jewish Arbor Day.

It's not an official holiday, no one takes off of work or anything, but school children celebrate, and there are programs in the country. There's a national program aimed at planting trees and kids have a little break during school and eat dried fruits and nuts. From (which answers all of our Jewish questions):

Tu B'Shvat is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. The Torah states that fruit from trees which were grown in the land of Israel may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for G-d, and after that, the fruit can be eaten. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B'Shvat, no matter when in the year it was planted. It is customary to plant trees and partake of the fruits of the land of Israel to mark the occasion.

Jewish tradition posits that time is both linear (we are progressing) and circular (that each time of the year has a spiritual similarity to the same point in the other years). And so, just like a place can be holy, a particular time, being simply another dimension, can be holy. Just like a place can have a certain attribute, a particular time can have a certain attribute.

To put it in larger terms, Jewish holidays are _not_ a re-enactment of an event, or simply a memorial or remembrance of an event, but rather it celebrates an appropriate time for a particular aspect of human growth.

So the holiday used to have more of a practical purpose (determining tithes) rather than a fun one (trees are great and lets eat almonds). Now, the newspapers have huge special supplements advertising all the activities, and it's a day for people to visit the kibbutz and plant a tree. It *is* somewhat ironic that these special supplements in the newspapers are quite thick... But back to the holiday, it seems to have become very secular and more of an Earth Day kind of thing than anything remotely spiritual.

But I digress, I did mention cookies, didn't I! Seeing as almond trees are the first ones to bloom, their fruit (or nut, rather) takes center stage on Tu Bishvat. Almond cookies, and cookies stuffed with dried fruit are now all over the place. An article tells me that almonds are mentioned nine times in the bible. It says that almonds are one of the earliest cultivated foods in Israel. Almond in Hebrew is shaked, and the word actually means "wakeful hastening" in reference to it's impatient blossoms. The almond cookies that you get here are exactly like the ones you get in Chinese restaurants, but chewier.

So happy Tu Bishvat. I'm off to the bakery!


Niki said...

I was mistaken. Boy was I mistaken. Apparently the entire country has the day off for the holiday. There was a pouring rain thunderstorm today, so we decided to escape it by driving to the mall to see a movie. We got there at noon. All of the movies (and this is a theater that is showing 20+ films) were sold out until 4pm! Crazy!

Mara said...

When I was a child, each year (perhaps on Tu Bishvat) my grandfather would donate money (or maybe it was tithing) to have trees planted in Israel in my name (I'm doing this parenthesis so I have three in one sentence). I always wanted to see "my" trees - they must be huge by now! He did this for my sisters and my cousins as well so we might have a grove. I'm hoping they were lemon trees. I don't remember any connection with almonds though.

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