Thursday, January 20, 2011
Today is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, also known as Tu B'Shvat. No, it's not another fast day. It's a real holiday, but one without any restrictions. The holiday is known as Jewish Arbor Day and the New Year for trees. It's a day to feel good about the bounty of nature, including trees, fruits and nuts.
Last year we wrote a lot about Tu B'Shvat, but the blog was just getting started and we only had about 50 email subscribers. Now we're way over 800 and growing fast, so we're making an exception to our policy of posting an original item each day and we're sharing last year's post with our subscribers old and new. We hope you'll enjoy it.
It is customary to eat fruits on this day, especially fruits from Israel. This includes figs, dates, oranges, pomegranates, and persimmons or Sharon fruit (afarsimonim). All are available at most supermarkets or gourmet groceries.
Trees have been very important to Israel from its earliest beginnings. From the tree of knowledge of good and evil described in Genesis to the eucalyptus trees planted in the Huleh Valley to drain the swamps and make much of the land inhabitable early in the 20th century, trees have always been part of Jewish life.
Yaakov Kirschen, the political cartoonist whose daily Dry Bones comic strips have appeared in The Jerusalem Post since January 1973, is using his talents to highlight the value of trees to everyone, and especially to the Jewish people, throughout the millennia.
In addition to his cartoons, which are also published in his daily blog, Kirschen has written a book in comic book format, Trees...The Green Testament, that illustrates the history of the world as narrated by a tree. The tree, from its days as a seed and a sapling, observes and comments on world events from its own perspective.
The book is out of print, but new and used copies are available through online booksellers including Amazon.com. It's really worth finding and reading.
Tu B'Shvat is a time for singing, feasting, and rejoicing. So here's a video tribute to this least known but very happy holiday. Enjoy!