Earlier this week I got an e-mail from a rabbi saying, “Isn’t it awesome to celebrate the the first signs of spring (in Israel) on a zero degree day?”
Awesome is one word for it. I’m constantly freezing here in Minnesota. I look outside through my frosty windows at the snow and the ice and the cold and I can feel way down deep in my bones all sorts of unnatural things freezing.
I smile at my children laughing, screaming, wheeeing, sledding. Consistently surprised by how much they adore the same cold things that tend to make me scowl. Shivering, I turn back to my steaming cup of coffee, my fingers wrapped around it out of habit for sure, but also in the hopes of seeping in some of that warmth.
Absent-mindedly, I plan on making hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course) to warm up their frozen fingers and keep those smiles plastered onto their rosy-cheeked faces as I click through different computer screens and my mind wanders to our calendar and what I still need to plan! Buy! Do!
As I scroll through the too-many screens that I have up, I glance at the e-mail from Rabbi Stiefel and remember: Right.
It’s time to be thinking, talking, teaching about Spring. It’s Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of the trees. Odd timing in Minnesota, but seemingly perfect for Israel where Spring is indeed about to bloom, tease and arrive.
Truth be told, I don’t mind dreaming about a little bit of Spring in my future. Looking towards a time where I DON’T have a pile of snow gear in and out of my washer, dryer, piled on my floor. Where nothing on my body freezes when I step outside.
Do I daresay that I’d trade my hot chocolate for lemonade and iced tea in a heartbeat? Well, I would.
I was planning on taking the girls to a Tu B’Shvat program at the JCC Sunday afternoon. We were going to watch a show! Plant! Eat symbolic foods! All with other Minnesotans secretly contemplating aliyah just because, you know, it is almost Spring in Israel.
But after a sleepless night filled with too many kid-wakings, subsequent parent wakings and endless games of musical beds, we stayed close to home.
We ate and taste-tasted and picnic-ed and planted and talked. And it was lovely.
I learned that when it comes to Spring, my kids miss their bikes and their swing-set. Jason misses grilling. And Louie misses tearing up the grass. Obviously.
And as for me? Tu B’Shvat and Spring make me feel all sorts of earthy. Reminding me of the beauty of our world. How bountiful it is. And how much we need to take care of it. The reduced chill factor and sun-kissed faces are a given. But I want my kids to covet taking care of the Earth as well.
So as a family we talked about what we could do to be a little more careful and a little more mindful. We talked about lights and energy, composting and reusing, gardening and CSA-ing. My kids blew me away with what they already knew (Well done teachers. Well done, indeed.) and how open they were to our family trying something new.
We landed on signing up for a CSA for the Summer. And they really got it. They got the idea of using less of the world’s energy by buying locally. Supporting local farmers. Having fresh fruits and veggies at our fingertips. Eating what’s grown. Trying new recipes. And of using our money wisely so we can afford to do all of the above. Kayli connected to local lunch day at school and made us sign a contract to “do what’s right.” And my more than slightly earthy and granola-natural lovin’-pragmatic but idealistic-California soul was so, so very happy.
So there you have it. That’s how we celebrated Tu B’Shvat this year. It’s a minor Jewish holiday with no real rules or regulations. It had our family gathering around the table, or picnic blanket I guess, discussing something important to all of us, making healthy decisions and trying new foods. So all in all- it was right up my alley.
The e-mail from Rabbi Stiefel ended with the words, “There is no special greeting for Tu B’Shvat. No special laws or restrictions. Go hug a tree!”
And I think I will. As long as my arms and fingers don’t freeze in the process!