Tu BiShvat Crafts Smell Awesome

Sara Rivka of Creative Jewish Mom has more delightful craft ideas to celebrate the New Year for Trees than I will ever be able to accomplish, so I selected just one for the upcoming holiday: a heavenly-smelling clove-studded orange called a pomander ball. The one I planned to make wasn’t the pretty kind with swirls and spirals of cloves, but rather the sort where the orange is completely covered in cloves and rolled in dry spices with an eye toward preserving it.

It was supposed to be, anyway, but I ran out of cloves. Rookie mistake.

Now it looks like a half-assed beach ball.

Now it looks like a half-assed beach ball.

If I hold it this way, I keep seeing the Eye of Sauron.

Animated Eye of Sauron pomander ball. Yessss.

Mordor never smelled this good, of course.

Maybe it could be a really fragrant bow tie.

It could be a little more symmetrical.

It could be a little more symmetrical.

Had I done it properly, my pomander might have kept for several months or a year. Oh well, at least my house will smell amazing through Tu BiShvat.

It’s Nearly the New Year

The New Year is almost here, and I’m getting excited!

Wait, didn’t we get all that New Year’s stuff over with last week? Let me first assure you that I am not so out of touch with the turning of the Gregorian calendar that I missed 2014’s arrival entirely, nor is this a WordPress glitch spitting out a post meant for December 2013. The New Year I’m talking about is on the verge of sprouting from the rich earth of Jewish time.

But isn’t Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year? I certainly spilled enough virtual ink on the subject last Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah. That Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year is certainly true, but it would be more correct to say that Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish New Year. We have three others.

That’s right, our calendar is so fertile that we’ve grown four whole New Years. Jealous?

Even if you’re not Jewish, you probably have more than one “New Year” coming up on this trip around the sun. If you’re in school or have children who are, you probably set your clock by the new school year. Businesses and the government decide when to hoard and when to spend profligately based on the proximity of the new fiscal year. You could even call your birthday your own personal New Year’s Day, and I wouldn’t begrudge you any champagne you might choose to imbibe in celebration — particularly if you invite me to join you.

Tu BiShvat meal, 2010

In 2010, Sampson and I celebrated Tu BiShvat with a fruit-and-wine mini-seder.

The New Year I’m currently anticipating is called Tu BiShvat, which translates, thrillingly enough, to “The Fifteenth of [the Jewish month] Shvat.” The less literal and far more descriptive English name is the New Year for Trees. Rabbi Ruth Adar posted a good, quick rundown of the basics before the holiday last year. If you want to delve deeper, I have loved Rabbi Rachel Barenblat’s annual reflections on a midwinter day that reaches forward to a time of blossoming and fruitfulness.

In 2014 (5774 in Jewish time), Tu BiShvat starts at sundown on January 15th. Although we don’t usually manage a full seder, a ritual meal drawing on mystical interpretations of the holiday, Sampson and I make an effort to include many different kinds of fruit in our dinner for that evening. I’m still contemplating how clever and fancy I might be able to get this year (hint: probably not very), but I’ll share whatever I come up with here next week. Maybe this will finally be the year that I make the pie from scratch.