By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
We welcome Tu B’Shevat – “The New Year of the Trees”– with words of song: “Ha-Shkeidiyah Porachat — The almond tree is blossoming, the golden sun is shining, and from every rooftop, songbirds herald the coming of the holiday.”
The almond is not a nut… but a “drupe” – a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed, a botanical designation shared, e.g., with the plum, cherry, and olive. While the almond tree has become emblematic of Spring because it is generally the first to blossom, its fruit – almonds – mature seven or eight months later: just in time for Rosh Hashanah. This tasty Tu B’Shevat symbol thus reminds us to take the long view… to see our worthy commitments through over time if our hopes and aspirations are to bear fruit… to work toward a truly sacred season.
This protracted process of growth apparently accounts for the Hebrew term for almond: shakeid. The verb root (sh.k.d.) indicates vigilance, diligence, sustained effort, assiduous devotion. Thus, Jeremiah’s vision of an almond tree (shakeid), and the accompanying Divine assurance that God stands vigilantly on watch (shokeid), prepared eagerly to fulfill His promises (1:11-12).
In principled service to God and our fellow creatures, may our strength never flag, our vigilance never waver… and our enthusiasm never “drupe”
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)