Sap on my Fingers and Tu B’Shevat
A few weeks ago, I cut some recent deadfall on our property to start “seasoning it” in our woodpile. Last night, after Shabbos, I grabbed some wood from the wrong pile for our woodstove, and realized later that my fingers were sticky.
I thought it was a cool corollary to Tu B’Shevat, where we know that the sap in trees is rising, getting ready for the end of snow.
A lot of people complain about winter. Rabbi Menachem Meiri tells us that on the Hebrew calendar, the winter season starts in the month of Tevet and continues until Nissan (noting seasonal additions to Shemoneh Esrei). Tu B’Shevat, our new year for trees, has the practical effect of separating one year from the next with regards to our laws of maaserot, orlah, and sheviit.
Maaserot are the laws of produce tithing, orlah is the forbidden fruit of the first three years of fruit from fruit-producing trees, and sheviit are the laws of calculating shemittah, the Sabbatical year. All of the calculations for these mitzvot are calculated from Tu B’Shevat.
For most of us, it’s just a holiday where we eat fruit at our shul’s oneg, omit tachanun, and drive on. In my wish that more Jews had a higher general domain knowledge of our laws, even if they don’t observe them, I’m giving this general tidbit.
This is our first winter in Maine, so Tu B’Shevat has more meaning in the mein of Rav Meiri – marking the midpoint for winter.
We also grow, right now, an embarrassment of riches in pine cones as opposed to fruit on our 12 acres in the Maine woods.
It’s truly difficult to think about what tree fruits are in our future with at least 20″ of snow on the immediate horizon, but we are presently planning for our gardens and planting when spring finally hits. And always, our household strives to make sure we are doing these things as observant Jews should. We don’t always succeed, but it’s fun to try.