We see everything around us through a coronavirus-colored lens these days, searching the past for clues about what is to come. This month, I'm using the rhyme about April showers and May flowers as an occasion for hope, seeing every holiday in May as part of this unfolding pandemic.
Coming a month and a half before the spring equinox and two months before Passover, Tu BiShvat provides a glimmer of springtime at a time when winter can often be at its cruelest.
Tu BiShvat (Hebrew for the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) is the new year of the trees.
We read the entire Torah over a year, beginning the cycle on the same week as Simchat Torah. The Torah is divided into 54 portions – or parashiyot – and, generally, one portion is read each week on Shabbat.
Tu BiShvat, called the "New Year of the Trees," falls at a seemingly incongruous time of year.
Tu BiShvat is a minor festival whose provenance dates only to the time of the Second Temple. However, the kabbalists who clustered around the great fifteenth-century mystic Isaac Luria of Safed placed great weight on the holiday, creating new festivities, gatherings at which hymns were sung, fruit (particularly carob) was eaten, and four cups of wine were taken (as in the Passover seder).