Tomorrow BE'H is Tu B'Shevat. We call it the new year of the trees. My grandbabies sang, "Happy birthday, trees," today.
Tu B'Shevat comes in the dead of the winter. It is a time of hope. Despite the cold and freezing temperatures, despite the snow and harsh conditions hammering at nature, trees and plants and grass and flowers everywhere in Israel are getting a wake-up call. It's the first happy reminder that in but a few weeks spring will come.
On Tu B'Shevat, we put on our winter coats and take out our shovels and dig in the frozen ground, showing our faith that the spring will come to defrost our wintery world and let all nature around us rejoice with the warmth of the sun.
On Tu B'Shevat, we watch our children plant their little saplings as we flap our arms like penguins trying to keep warm. We watch our breath whoosh around us as we try to smile with pride at our youngsters attempts to reconnect to our blessed land.
This year we planted too. But we didn't even wear jackets. And the ground wasn't hard. It was mushy from the past rain.
The mountains and the valleys and the hills all around were not covered with frost or brown with winter rest. They were green - green everywhere. There is grass growing as far as the eye can see, even in places that I'd never seen grass before.
Sheep and goats are supposed to be closed in snuggly until springtime. But they were out all over the hills today, taking advantage of the clear blue day and the fresh green shrubbery.
Farmers are supposed to be living off what they have stored away from before the winter. And yet they were in their fields today, plowing and hoeing. As we drove on the Easter Gush Etzion Highway from Shdema to Tekoa, an Arab farmer sat behind his wheelbarrow, which was loaded with heads of cauliflower, the size of boulders.
The patch of farmland near the northern entrance to Efrat has sprouted cabbages that are so big, they look like the vegetables of the giants Sihon and Og.
This would all excite me, and cause me to reminisce about the produce during the time when Moses sent the spies to Israel and they came back with gargantuan fruit. However, all of this makes me feel uneasy. There is something very wrong.
The weather seems wrong. The grass seems wrong. The cabbage and cauliflower seem wrong. The sheep seem wrong. It is supposed to be winter. We're supposed to wake up nature today, but it never went to sleep. I feel that I should worry, or seek deep meaning for the absence of winter.
But I have hope that all will be well, and I have to have faith that this strange weather is for the best. "Call out to Hashem with thanks, with the harp sing to our G-d - Who covers the heaven with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes mountains sprout with grass." (Psalm 147)
So, despite the strange things going on in Mother Nature right now, I pray that Avinu Malkein (Our Father Our King) will take care of the Jewish people and give them the weather, the crops and the seasons they need.
Looking forward to getting back to normal winter weather - "Praise Hashem...He Who gives snow like fleece, He scatters frost like ashes. He hurles His ice like crumbs - before His cold, who can stand? He issues His command and it melts them, He blows His wind - the waters flow." (Psalm 147)
Happy Tu B'Shevat. Happy birthday, trees.
PS - I made a Tu B'Shevat video clip that I hope to post after Shabbat. Stay tuned to VOICES TV on www.voices-magazine.com .