Reading the Pine
There are galaxies in the grain
of this pine, atoms whirling
like dervishes, their dance
etching rings as they make
Enter the river of bark,
its knots spiraling
in dark crevices;
smooth the peeled branches,
pale as ripening sunlight,
glistening with growth.
Now touch this table,
illusion of stability,
its whorls and streams
moving so slowly
they leave you behind.
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Tu B'Shvat is the
beginning of a new cycle for the tithe on fruit trees. Before the
destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., 10 percent
of all produce was set aside for the support of the priestly
class and the poor. Tu B'Shvat (which means "the 15th of the
month of Shvat") marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for
While the Temple is no longer standing, the principles that lie
at the foundation of the practice of tithing are eternally
According to Jewish tradition, "the earth is the Eternal's and
all that it holds" (Psalms 24:1). "The land must not be sold
beyond reclaim, for the land is Mine" (Leviticus 25:23). The
land is not ours do to with as we please. We must be
responsible stewards of both the land we inhabit and its
According to the biblical tradition, this requires sharing the
bounty of the land with those in need, allowing the land to rest
during the Sabbatical year (every seventh year), redistributing
land every 50 years (the Jubilee), and maintaining the integrity
of the land so it will sustain future generations.
Though Tu B'Shvat no longer serves its original
fiscal function, Jewish communities have
continued to celebrate the New Year of Trees
as a minor festival. In the 1600s, Kabbalists
(Jewish mystics) in Tsfat created a Tu B'Shvat
seder modeled after the Passover seder.
Participants eat four different categories of fruit and drink four
different combinations of red and white wine or grape juice,
symbolizing the four seasons and the mystical "four worlds."
The early pioneers of the State of Israel celebrated Tu B'Shvat
by planting trees. This practice continues today.
In recent years, Jewish communities around the world have
begun to celebrate Tu B'Shvat as a "Jewish Earth
Day"--organizing seders, tree-plantings, ecological restoration
activities, and educational events, all of which provide an
opportunity to express a Jewish commitment to protecting the
A Jewish online magazine of Social Action sitefor action plans, networking, and more.
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
download a Tu B¹Shvat seder
links to a wide range of Tu B'Shvat resources
listing of COEJL Regional Affiliate sponsored Tu B'Shvat
events around the country
TREES, EARTH, AND TORAH: A TU B'SHVAT ANTHOLOGY.
The first new volume of the Festival Anthology series of the Jewish
Publication Society, TREES, EARTH, AND TORAH contains an impressive
of articles, essays, poems, new translations, recipes and songs by an
impressive variety of Jewish voices. The nearly 500 page anthology was
by Ari Elon, an Israeli professor who also teaches at the Reconstructionist
Rabbinical College; Naomi Mara Hyman, editor of Biblical Women in the
Midrash; and Rabbi Arthur Waskow,
TREES, EARTH AND TORAH includes:
a model Tu B'Shvat Seder;
passages about trees from the Hebrew Scriptures, Hassidic rebbes, and Martin
articles on Judaism and ecology by contemporary writers, including Ari Elon,
Everett Gendler, Naomi Hyman, Norman Lamm, David Seidenberg, Zalman
Schachter-Shalomi, Ismar Schorsch, Eilon Schwartz, Richard Schwartz, Rami
Shapiro, Michal Smart, and Arthur Waskow.
the first English translation of Pri Eytz Hadar, the classic source for the
mystical Seder born at Safed;
poems by Marge Piercy, Zelda, and Marcia Falk;
a new translation of A. D. Gordon on the Zionism of the earth;
a critical examination of the actual effects of Tu-B'Shvat-style
tree-planting on the Land of Israel;
recipes for fruit dishes;
reports on civil disobedience to protect endangered redwood forests;
full-page papercuts by Judith Hankin;
an analysis of the "Is the Tree Human?" passage in the Torah as seen by
a mystical-midrashic piece on the hidden face of "Yah B'Shvat" by Ari Elon;
a powerful and never before published "Amidah for the New Year of Trees"
the Middle Ages, in which the trees themselves pray nineteen prayers;
and songs by Shefa Gold, Rayzel Raphael, Fran Avni, David Shneyer, Hanna
Tiferet Siegel, Margot Stein, and others.