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Home > Holidays > Our promise to the future

Our promise to the future

By Nurianne Tomas, Zipple staff writer

I love Tu B'Shevat. Its one of those holidays that so few Jews observe, let alone know about, but one of the most meaningful that I look forward to every year. It's the "other" seder, the one I make during Tu B'Shevat, that has even more meaning to me in some ways than Passover sederim.

At Passover, we were there. We were suffered under the bonds of slavery, we were redeemed, we remember. Our sederim helps us to look back and see how our collective history has influenced our lives. We honor those who suffered so that we may be free now of our own personal bondages and afflictions.

But during Tu B'Shevat, we look forward. We actively celebrate natural renewal, and take part in the redemption of the earth and of generations yet unborn. We include seven different fruits in our seder, we plant trees, we create and foster health for ourselves, our children and our children's children by caring for that which will sustain us.

We actively realize that we are an integral part of the life cycle. What we do now will be remembered and influence those who will come after us. Its not just the promise of our ancestors who escaped from Egypt, or who received Torah or who fought the Macabees. Tu B'Shevat is about the only holiday on the Jewish calendar that can't be summed up in less than ten words: "They tried to kill us. We won. Lets eat!"

It's about collective responsibility and establishing the promise of survival for the future. Its about delayed gratification, and persevering knowing that eventually our labors will bear fruit, even though we may never taste their sweetness.

There is a traditional story about this concept that brings forth a tangible action on Tu B'Shevat that illustrates this thought.

A sage named Choni Hame'agel (lit., one who circles) once came upon an old man planting carob trees. He asked: "When will these trees bear fruit"? The old man replied: "In 70 years." Choni asked: "Are you sure you will still be alive at that time, so that you will be able to eat the fruits of your labor?" The old man answered: "My ancestors planted carob trees for me, and I am now planting for my children and grandchildren."

I find it powerfully tender to consider the tradition of eating and planting carob trees on Tu B'Shevat. How many of us, especially in today's world of instant gratification and immediate reward and "living in the moment" can stop to take our already stressed time to do something that we won't see come to fruition? How many of us really care about anyone beyond ourselves to do something that is wholly selfless without condition?

On this Tu B'Shevat, and every Tu B'Shevat, to come I will try to stop and make a promise to myself to continue to breathe life into my promise for our futures. And as I eat my carob brownies, mix my wine at my seder, plant my parsley seeds, and buy a tree to be planted in Israel, I will whisper a prayerful hope that the steps I take in my life today be gentle so as to ensure my children's children will have a healthy, lush, and renewed path to walk upon.

Chag Sameach!

© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.

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