Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Greening of Tu B’Shevat

Tu B’Shevat has always been our greenest Jewish holiday, celebrated at the whitest time of year. In Israel, it’s not exactly spring either, but you can feel the first stretching of the sun’s warmth with the lengthening of the days.

I’ll be conducting a Tu B’Shevat seder this Sunday night for the TBE Discussion Group, but you can do one on your own. The hagaddah I’ll be using is brand new, created by Hazon.

Click here to read about Tu Bishvat. You can download the Hazon Tu Bishvat Seder manual. The manual provides instructions, guidelines and tips on running your own seder. You can download a draft copy of Hazon's Tu Bishvat Seder Haggadah. The document has been formatted to print to a double sided folded booklet.

Click here to see what schools are doing to increase understanding of how food, the land and spirituality are connected, and here to see a special project that many synagogues are engaged in, called “Tuv Ha’aretz.”

From JTA:

JTA is proud to present Eco Jews: Trends and Traditions in Jewish Environmentalism, a special section at

The arrival of Tu B'Shevat, Judaism's annual ode to the trees, is the perfect time to examine the most significant players and trends in Jewish environmentalism -- and offer some hands-on advice for marking the holiday and greening your communities.

Also part of this special section, JTA is excited to announce the winners of the First Annual Green Beanie Awards, in recognition of groundbreaking environmental initiatives launched by organizations and institutions from all walks of Jewish communal life. Expecting only a small response to our call for entries, we received over 100 initiatives from around the world, featuring people of all ages and from all walks of life. We saw submissions from day schools and Jewish Community Centers, senior homes and High Schools, food co-ops and bloggers.Judges from Hazon, COEJL, and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center had difficulty settling on the top ten. The final selection included Jewish organizational giants like American Jewish Committee and UJA-Federation of New York, but also smaller groups like the Federation of Jewish Mens Clubs; Kibbutz Lotan in Israel; and Jewish Heart of Africa, which brings Israeli green technology to the continent in an effort to spur eco-friendly development.

If you are looking for a liberal Jewish setting for online text study, you'll find it at the Kollel. Click on for some thoughts on Tu B'Shevat, and on for Mishnaic insight on the spirituality embedded in a simple blessing over "the fruit of the tree."'
Some suggested links for further study: A nice introduction can be found at (from the "Jewish Virtual Library -- while you're there, check out the rest of this valuable site, including the "Breaking News" section at
You can find a number of Tu B'Shevat links (including seders) at

There's so much out there about this holiday that it's hard to separate the forest from the trees, so to speak.

A nice collection of freeware on the holiday, called "Tree Bien," was put together by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner for the USCJ - it's at

Which brings us to the whole area of eco-Judaism, often emphasized on Tu B'Shevat and a growing concern for many.
Click on to find a fascinating take on "Eco-Kosher and Feng Shui." This article compares Jewish and Eastern forms of environmentalism, focusing on the rabbinic concept of "Bal Tashchit," prohibiting the needless waste of our natural resources. Fascinating reading.

To find out more, take a trip to the Teva Learning Center. "Teva" means nature, and this camping program has become a sort of Jewish "Outward Bound" for many students. Teva is at and is coordinated by an organization called Shomrei Adama (Keepers of the Land).

Last but not least, there is the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), found at Here's there mission statement: "The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life engages Jewish institutions and individuals in bringing the moral passion of Jewish tradition and social action to environmental stewardship in order to preserve the integrity of creation, advance social justice, protect future generations, and strengthen the Jewish community." This site has numerous educational links and action alerts. This comes at a time when I fear that action alerts will increase dramatically.

Tu B'Shevat is a fine time to reconnect with that Land of Israel. Our ancestors in Europe looked forward to that taste of dates, figs and other fruits from the holy land, including (ugh) carob (aka Bokser). As we read in a nice Tu B’shevat Haggadah at, "After the exile of the Jews from Israel, Tu B'Shevat became a day on which to commemorate our connection to Eretz Israel. During much of Jewish history, the only observance of this day was the practice of eating fruit associated with the land of Israel. A tradition based on Deuteronomy 8:8 holds that there are five fruits and two grains associated with it as a "land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and [date] honey." Almonds were also given a prominent place in Tu B'Shevat meals since the almond trees were believed to be the first of all trees in Israel to blossom. Carob or St John's bread - was the most popular fruit to use, since it could survive the long trip from Israel to Jewish communities in Europe and North Africa." I've been checking out "carob" web sites -- this far nothing to recommend.

We can experience the Israeli natural landscape more directly at

Ohr Samayach has a nice catalog of articles on the love of the land of Israel, at And you can discover just why I treasure my subscription to Eretz Magazine, Israel's National Geographic, by exploring the links to articles and photos based at

You can also check

And the best way to show that love, naturally, to be there. Second best? Plant a tree: Go to the JNF web site at No, you won't be able to find a photo of "your" tree there. But you will be able to become a modern day Honi Ha Ma'agel (Honi the Circle Drawer). Find out about him at, and bring the kids along for this part of the journey (nice music too at this site). "Just as those who came before us plant for us," Honi said back in the days of the Talmud (, "so do we plant for our children."
Quick list of Tu b'Shevat Resources from Canfe Nesharim:

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