Environmental Focus of Tu B’Shevat

Ready for a celebration that enlivens the winter?  Tu B’Shevat starts this year at sunset on February 7th.

In brief, this holiday celebrates the season when the sap begins to rise in trees in Israel, like almond trees.

To include a very simple nod to the holiday in your home, add some of the fruits and nuts that grow in Israel to your dinner table that night – like grapes, figs, olives, dates, pomegranates, and almonds.

In another post, we’ll talk more about holding a Tu B’Shevat Seder which, like a Passover Seder, can include four cups of wine, four questions, specific foods, and story-telling.

Some people ask this as  the first of the four questions,  “On other holidays, we honor events and people.  Why does this holiday honor trees?”  This question has been expanded to encompass a bigger discussion of the importance of our being stewards of the earth.

Consider this quote from Chaya Burstein (“The Jewish Earth Day,” Hadassah Magazine, February 2006): “We must expand our celebration to embrace the whole earth.  We must make it a time to sharpen our appreciation — in our urban, high-technology settings — of God’s gifts to us and all living creatures.”

Here are two of her suggestions about ways to celebrate Tu B’Shevat, while enjoying the earth.

  • “Explore the woods.  Look for animal tracks in snow or mud . . .  Build a campfire to roast marshmallows.”
  • “Build a bird feeder and keep it filled.”

For more about the environmental focus of Tu B’Shevat, here’s an article posted last year on the National Wildlife Federation site:  http://blog.nwf.org/2011/01/how-to-celebrate-new-years-for-the-trees-or-obscure-jewish-holiday-of-the-month/ It’s a lovely amalgam of personal recollection and information.

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