The Promise of a New Season

Olive trees in Israel illustrate Tu B'Shvat

Credit:Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

One of the first things that my husband and I did when we bought our home in Israel was plant fruit trees in our new garden.

What a blessing it was! Trees in Israel are different from those anywhere else in the world. They are subject to biblical laws, such as God’s directive to wait three years before eating the fruit of a new tree (Leviticus 19:23), and not to work the land or prune trees during the Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25: 1-7).

Trees of the Holy Land are also part of biblical prophecy, such as the promise in Micah 4:4 that once again the people of Israel will sit under their fig tree and grape vine, or Isaiah 27:6, which says that Israel will blossom and fill the world with fruit. Our trees are not just a source of delicious fruit — they are the Bible come alive in our own backyard!

Tu B’Shvat — The New Year for Trees

On January 28, Jews around the world celebrate trees on a holiday called Tu B’Shvat, which marks the New Year for Trees. It might seem strange to celebrate trees in the dead of winter, when they look almost lifeless and don’t really provide us with any benefits. Yet, this irony is what gives the holiday its meaning.

To the naked eye, a winter landscape looks dreary. If we didn’t know better, we might think that the trees, bare of leaves, flowers, and fruit, have reached the end of their life. Yet, just beneath the frozen ground, life is beginning anew. The tree’s roots have absorbed the winter rains, and now new sap begins to flow, starting the process of life all over again. We will see the buds and blossoms in spring and enjoy the fruits in summer and fall.

God Can Do Anything

In the same way, there are seasons in our lives that feel and look like winter. A situation might appear hopeless or a dream might seem dead. But it is precisely during these times that, beneath the surface, God is at work and new life is pouring through our veins. In due time, we will see the resurrection of our dreams and new blessings in our lives even though it may be hard to see in the moment.

I am so grateful to God for putting these powerful messages into nature where we can see and experience them every year. Anytime we are faced with a challenge or confronted with doubt, all we need to do is look at a tree and know that if God can make it blossom and bloom after it lay naked and bare, he can do anything in our lives.

This year in particular, I am leaning into the message of Tu B’Shvat.  As I look out on the gloomy landscape created by the coronavirus pandemic — at the numbers of sick, unemployed, and newly impoverished families here in Israel, and around the world — I will remember that God is at work behind the scenes and that spring is on the way.  While I cannot see His hand, and may not understand His ways, I know that God is healing our world, body and soul, and preparing us for a new season.  And, no matter how discouraging the situation may seem, if God can bring fruit from seemingly lifeless trees, I know that He can turn around any situation — including the difficult one that we find ourselves in right now.

Christians and Jews have a common heritage, and it is my honor to share these Jewish teachings, which belong to you too. Together, let us thank God for his great work behind the scenes, and trust His promises for the best seasons yet, in our lives and in our world.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's Signature

Tags: Holidays Tu B'Shvat

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