Sharoni Sibony, Adult Education Department
I once spent an amazing February day at Kew Gardens, London, where I caught sight of bright pink flowers as I was walking through a snow flurry. That image has stayed with me as a symbol of hope pushing through hardship, of growth and hibernation coexisting in the same moment. As we come up to Tu B’Shevat, I’m thinking about it again.
Tu B’Shevat is our new year for fruit trees. Before the rabbis established an annual birthday for all trees, farmers in Biblical times had to know when each tree was “born” and had to wait until the end of the tree’s third year – a maturation period – before they could harvest its fruit, first for the Temple priests in the tree’s fourth year and then in subsequent years for their own sustenance. When the trees were but seedlings or saplings, of course, there was no fruit to harvest. As soon as there was fruit to harvest, they celebrated all its possibilities – including the seeds of new growth that the fruits now contained.
Sometimes when we look at a tree’s growth only above ground, we can forget how much growth is happening below the surface of the soil. We see trunks and branches stretching out seasonally, but some trees grow their roots year-round. We can take comfort in the notion that even when we feel like we’re struggling or pruning in our own lives, there is something sustaining us below the surface, a seed or a light that’s just waiting to push through.
On Sunday, January 16 at 3:30 PM, I’ll be hosting a Creative Commentary workshop in honour of Tu B’Shevat. Together, we’ll explore some texts that will inspire our own writing or art-making about the themes of the holiday. We’ll ask each other questions like: What are you planting at this moment? What are you harvesting? What are you gathering, and what are you letting go of? Watch next week’s On the Horizon for the registration details.
And if you’re looking for a cool Tu B’Shevat tzedakah project, you can help with seed conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity for future generations. You can adopt a seed through the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens, which is a massive seed conservation bank, run in extraordinary partnership with 97 countries around the globe. And here in Canada, the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security is also working to preserve the seeds of our tree species.