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Make your holidays richer with poetry. Celebrate tu b'shevet,
the new year of the trees.

Tu B'Shvat, the New Year of Trees, falls on the fifteenth day of the month of Shvat (from sundown on Friday, January 21 to sundown on Saturday, January 22, 2000) Eytz chayyim hi l'machazim bah -- A Tree of Life she is, -- for those who hold her close.

In Praise of Trees
by Penny Harter from Lizard Light.



On the mountain
great trees of pine and oak,
of spruce and aspen, raise boughs
in benediction.

Intermediaries
between the sun and earth,
they nurture the living
as they feed on the dead
who come at last to them
as to a priest, sinking
gratefully into the soil

where their strong roots
promise resurrection,
transforming humic acid
into atmosphere,
into us.

Read more about this bookhere.
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Reading the Pine


by Penny Harter from Lizard Light


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 tithing.

While the Temple is no longer standing, the principles that lie at the foundation of the practice of tithing are eternally relevant.

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 produce.

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 earth.

Resources:
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 diversity of articles, essays, poems, new translations, recipes and songs by an equally impressive variety of Jewish voices. The nearly 500 page anthology was edited 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 Buber; 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 rabbinic tradition; 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" from 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.


 

   


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