January 16, 2014
This week, Jews around the world will celebrate Tu B’Shvat, which is also known as the “New Year of the Trees.” In honor of this special holiday, for the past two weeks my children have been preparing seeds to plant in the ground and collecting empty boxes to plant baby trees in. My children have been awed by nature and the changing seasons that God so perfectly created. Tu B’Shvat is a fun holiday that shows children the divinity in nature, and as a God-seeking adult, this holiday is not any less meaningful.
It amazes me how biblical holidays all celebrate a unique characteristic of God, and the special way that He created this world. Jewish teachings hold that we don’t celebrate or commemorate an occurrence that happened hundreds of years ago if it is not relevant today, meaning that all of the Jewish holidays we observe today will continue to serve a purpose – and teach a deep message – until the end of time.
Sometimes this concept feels theoretical and distant to me, but if I just open my eyes to my surroundings, it all falls into place. By celebrating God’s holidays, we are bringing His divinity into this world in ways that can be seen, felt, and appreciated. Especially during holidays here in Israel, I feel like God is taking me by the hand and showing me that His Bible truly is the blueprint for the world.
Each holiday that we celebrate offers the opportunity to experience a different characteristic of God. Around the holiday of Hanukkah, when we celebrate miracles from the Temple period, I witness miracles happening in my own life. During the holiday of Passover, when we celebrate redemption from Egypt, I feel redemption taking place in my bones. And during the somber holiday of Tisha B’Av, when we commemorate the two Jerusalem Temples being destroyed, I take extra care and precautions, knowing it is a time prone to tragedy and sadness.
Each holiday has a deep and tangible message for God’s children, and what the holiday of Tu B’Shvat teaches me is that renewal and improvement are always possible. After the cold winter months, the earth often looks dead. The beautiful, colorful flowers are no longer lining our gardens, the ground appears to be muddy and lifeless, and leafless trees seem to be shriveling away without hope of being brought back to life. Looking at nature during the dead of winter, it is hard to believe it will ever bloom again.
Yet year after year, spring arrives and nature faithfully renews herself. Flowers bloom once again, trees generously give fruit, and grass regrows tall and strong. In many ways, the regeneration of nature after the cold winter months feels like Isaiah’s prophecy of dry bones (Ezekiel 37) coming to life before my eyes! The holiday of Tu B’Shvat forces us to take notice of our surroundings, the miracles of nature, and give glory to His name for creating such a perfect system.
On this holiday that celebrates renewal and awakening in nature, I feel God present in my heart, pushing me to grow spiritually, reminding me not to give up on goodness and kindness no matter how dark the world gets, and opening my eyes to see that He is very present even in the lowest places. God is sending me a clear message through the holiday of Tu B’Shvat that if I search for Him, He will be found.
With blessings from the Holy Land,