Today is Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, in the mishna, considered the New Year of trees. In Israel it has evolved into a day where schoolchildren plant trees and spend the day out in nature, and we eat foods associated with the Land of Israel, dates, figs and the like. It is also considered the turning point out of winter and into spring (indeed there is a famous song about the almond trees in blossom on Tu BeShevat), so that in Chassidut it is also symbolic of emerging from the dark cold places in our lives into a period of growth and plenty.
So, Tu BeShvat gives us pause to take a look around, breathe deep and appreciate the beauty and bounty of the land on which we live.
There are a myriad of reasons why life in Israel is endlessly rewarding and uplifting, to say nothing of turbulent and exciting.
I had an experience of the rewarding and uplifting variety the other day on my way into Family Court with a client.
I certainly won’t go into the details of the case here, but suffice to say that my client had been through an incredibly difficult few days, and we were heading to a hearing which was a potential emotional minefield, all of which surely showed on his face.
As we were walking into the courthouse, my client needed to go through a security check (lawyers get a pass). One of the guards stopped him because he was holding a bottle of Coke, and told him he wasn’t allowed in the building with a glass bottle. In response, I suggested we wait outside while he finished his bottle of Coke. The guards however – whether because they read the anxiety on his face, whether they would have done this for anyone – had a different idea. Without any fuss, one of them fetched a paper cup from their supply room, another one poured it in the cup for him, and when it wasn’t large enough to contain the Coke, went off to find another one so that my client shouldn’t lose any of his drink.
A small gesture indeed, but for a person going through a tough time, this humane gesture from the security guards, young men working under pressure who could have ignored the needs of the person walking in the door, meant the world.
Happy Tu B’Shevat to everyone, wherever they are.