From Fruit to Trees
Almond flowers (pixabay)
“Is it Tu B’Shvat Yet?” queried the title of a book I received in the mail from PJ Library, a free subscription service for Jewish-themed children’s books. I had to check the calendar. It was, and soon. Among the signs given to teach young ones how to anticipate the arrival of Tu B’Shvat, one caught my attention: “When Dad helps us make trees so crunchy and sweet; from all kinds of nuts, fruits, and seeds that we’ll eat… Tu B’Shvat is on its way.” The illustrations showed a father and son making colorful shapes of trees on plates using pomegranate seeds, figs, almonds, apples, and olives.
Is that what a father expected to do on Tu B’Shvat? The custom was new to me. As a child growing up in Israel, I had planted a tree or two on school trips and could hum the words of “Hashkedia Porachat” (“The Almond Tree Blossoms”) in sight of real almond trees blossoming in the playgrounds and open fields surrounding my neighborhood around this time of year. But now, living in Brooklyn, how could I convey the meaning of the Jewish “New Year of the Trees”, to my young toddler, Ilan, whose name means tree in Hebrew?
The colorful fruit plates seemed to offer an answer. So, I brought home some fruits and nuts, and my wife and I went to work assembling our trees on plates like the ones in the book. My son looked on curiously, not yet dexterous enough to design his own trees out of fruit. “I want some!” he exclaimed, grabbing at the olives and pistachios I was arranging. He is growing so fast, I remark whenever he reaches a new milestone. Will his world be a verdant and blossoming garden? I talk to him about all the important things that trees do for our world, but I’m not sure how much is sinking in. As modern city-dwellers, fruit of every kind are effortlessly abundant and immediately obtainable in stores and supermarkets, so much so, that we lose sight of the great patience and care required for fruit trees to yield their bounty and the fragile eco-system to which they belong. Perhaps taking a little time and attention to arrange fruit back into a tree is a small way of acknowledging the trees, and not only their fruit, in our lives.
Related Article: May We Recommend: Tu B’Shvat Fruit Trees