The Jewish festival, Tu B’Shevat, is just around the corner and you know what that means — time to celebrate trees! Tu B’Shevat is a new year celebration for trees, marking the end of their harvest cycle and the beginning of a new transitional phase.
Many Jewish communities in the United States observe the festival by eating fruit on this day. The Torah praises seven “fruits,” in particular grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Many Jewish people also try to eat a new fruit, which can be any seasonal fruit. Some Jewish communities plant trees on Tu B’Shevat.
This year, I encourage every Jewish community to use Tu B’Shevat as a time for environmental education in their communities, both Jewish and not.
When the Jews arrived in Israel in the 1920s and 1930s, they marked the barren land using trees, to build a flourishing ecosystem where they could thrive and build anew. This year, let’s give back to that eco-system by planting a tree; holding an educational forum; or pledging to build a Path-to-Positive in 2015.
As Rabbi Simon said, “There is no plant without an angel in Heaven tending it and telling it, ‘Grow!’” (Genesis Rabba 10:7), making each of them a true gift from G-d that should be protected. Just as the tree gives, we too must give back to the eco-system of our creator; remembering that all living things are interdependent.
Modern-day Jews celebrate Tu BiSh'vat by expressing joy and thankfulness for trees, harvests, and the natural world. Many Jews plant trees at home and in Israel, and eat delicious fruits and greens in celebration of this “New Year of the Trees.” During this agricultural festival, Jews around the world consider our obligation to care for the environment and our sacred responsibility to share the fruits of God’s earth with all.
You can incorporate social justice themes into your Tu BiSh'vat celebration in the following ways.
Host a Tu BiSh'vat Social Action Seder
Infuse your Tu BiShvat seder with environmental education to give modern meaning to this celebration. Many such seders focus on the natural world and our responsibility to protect it, like this Tu BiSh'vat seder, published by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) and the North American Federation for Temple Youth (NFTY). In keeping with the nature of this holiday, this seder is a call to action, a time of education and reflection at we examine our impact on the world around us and commit to changing the way we interact with our environment.