Why Is This Night Different?: Thoughts on Tu B’Shvat

By Richard H. Schwartz

By מרכז להב"ה מגאר Pikiwiki Israel, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25110674

Olive Tree. Photo: Pikiwiki Israel.

One of the highlights of the Passover seder is the recitation of the four questions which consider how the night of Passover differs from all the other nights of the year. Many questions are also appropriate for Tu B’Shvat, which starts on Friday evening, February 10, in 2017, because of the many ways that this holiday differs from Passover and all other nights of the year. [Read more…]

An Original Environmental Tu B’Shvat Ritual

— by Kayla Niles and Rabbi Goldie Milgram

The Jewish festival of the trees, our “earth day” — Tu B’Shvat, begins this Tuesday evening. This article will provide you with a contemporary family ritual for the holiday.

This year happens to be a shmitah year, the year of rest for our agricultural land ending a traditional seven-year cycle explained below. By updating these ancient practices, we can respond to our current environmental crisis with principles derived from our Jewish tradition:

  • When humans are destructive, nature reacts.
  • There is order and inter-relatedness throughout creation.
  • It is a mitzvah to refrain from destruction of the environment — bal tash-chit: For not all resources are renewable.
  • We have to get back to “the Garden.”
  • Earth is “the Garden.”
  • Our responsibility is to tend “the Garden.”

Accordingly, for sure one meaning in Judaism of  “the world-to-come” is this world and having focused consciousness about the condition in which we will leave it for our children. [Read more…]

Tu B’Shvat Almond Tart

One knows that Tu B’Shvat, the new year of the trees, has arrived when the almond trees begin to flower in Israel.

Photo credit: Foodie Baker

Photo credit: Foodie Baker

The beautiful pink and white blossoms signal that winter is over. The almonds themselves, however, will not be ready for harvest until the fall.

This year, Tu B’Shvat begins on February 3, at sundown. You may use almonds from last year’s crop to prepare a festive almond tart in honor of the holiday.

Almond Tart

Adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  1.  Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place the frozen pie crust on a cookie sheet.
  3. Mix all the other ingredients, except for the sliced almonds, in a bowl.
  4. Pour the almond mixture into the pie crust.
  5. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of the filling.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.

New Jewish Energy Partnership For Tu B’Shvat


— by Benjamin Suarato

New York City — Today, January 24, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) and Canfei Nesharim, an organization that focuses on sustainable living inspired by Torah, will begin a new strategic collaboration to promote advocacy and action on energy policy and conservation in the Jewish community. COEJL’s Jewish Energy Guide and Canfei Nesharim’s Year of Action will be launched in time for Tu B’shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees. Marrying action resources with implementation tools, this collaboration will reach across multiple denominational and organizational spectra of Jewish life.

More after the jump.

As part of COEJL’s broader Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign, the Jewish Energy Guide and accompanying Canfei Nesharim Year of Action serve as blueprints for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar. With 18 organizational partners committed to using and distributing the Jewish Energy Guide, participants will have access to a comprehensive approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change. Contributors to the guide include notable figures from the Jewish and environmental worlds, such as Bill McKibben of 350.org and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Naomi Tsur.

Canfei Nesharim’s Year of Action will provide tools and resources to empower the Jewish community to take action on energy conservation and reduce food waste, including action tips and a calculator on Jewcology, a web-based social media portal for the entire Jewish environmental community, where participants can report their actions and see their results — as well as the results of the entire Jewish community. The program follows their 2012 Year of Jewish Learning on the Environment and continues through Tu B’Shvat 2014. New actions will be posted throughout the year.

The year 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of COEJL and the 10th anniversary of Canfei Nesharim.  Together, these Jewish environmental organizations will inspire the Jewish community to take immediate action and make a meaningful impact this year.  

A New Old View of Tu B’shvat

From Johnny Appleseed, to the wise old man that Honi the circle-maker sees planting carob trees for his grandchildren in the classic midrash, those with the foresight to plant trees for the future are lauded in history and legend. Fruit trees are a special investment compared to annual crops. They require years of cultivation before their delicious rewards can be reaped.  Tu B’shvat originated to help farmers keep track of their trees’ ages, so that they would know when it was okay according to biblical law to eat the produce. Today, however, appreciating that first juicy bite of fruit after years of waiting lies beyond most of our experiences.

More after the jump.
Tu B’shvat has become a day to celebrate trees.  Jewish Arbor Day is a wonderful way of modernizing an agricultural holiday in a society mostly divorced from farming, but it does not get at that ancient and essential experience of reaping a reward after a long period of work, investment, and patience. As with most of our food, fruit is available to many of us at our convenience. But the environmental, health, and social costs of using chemical fertilizers to grow food on an industrial scale, burning fossil fuels to ship it far away, and sending the profits back to huge corporations instead of the farmers, are receiving increasing attention. So this year I plan to re-root my observance of Tu B’shvat in the beauty of delayed gratification.

In addition to pausing to appreciate the wonder of trees, I’m going to use Tu B’shvat to take more time and care to collect and prepare my food. Americans spend and average of 6.9% of their income on food compared to 12-14% in many EU countries (USDA) and 30 minutes per day cooking it (OECD). When we see cooking as a chore, it loses all of its magic. But when I put time and energy into conjuring a meal, I am astounded by how much better it tastes (not to mention how little it can cost).  So maybe we can expand the meaning of Tu B’Shvat and use this day to slow down and imagine the mixture of awe, delight, and gratitude that our ancestors might have felt when their teeth pierced the flesh of the first fig on their just mature tree, they peeled open the pod of that first carob, or they poured out oil from a new crop of olives. We can appreciate trees, and also the still mysterious processes — seed to fruit, flour to bread, raw ingredients to a beautiful meal — that are worth waiting for and give value to that patience.

I invite you to join me in my new Tu B’shvat tradition. You can come over for dinner if you live in Cambridge! Or you can use one these suggestions as a jumping off point for your own celebration of delayed gratification:

  •  Track down a local winter farmer’s market here and see what’s available that fits into your seder.  
  • Bring back an old family recipe from the brink of extinction.
  • Cook something that you’ve always wanted to try but never make because it involves starting the night before.
  • Choose a fruit you’ve never tried before, look up a recipe here, here, or (gasp) in a cookbook if you have one, and incorporate that into your seder.
  • Make something from scratch that you usually take a shortcut on.
  • Delegate parts of your meal to each member of your family, and spend the day cooking together before sitting down to what will likely be a longer, more drawn out meal as you enjoy each person’s contribution.
  • Go on a “food tour” of the table before you start eating. Let each contributor introduce their dish in whatever way is significant.
  • Brainstorm and enjoy things that get better with time — wine, cheese, slowly rising bread, sauerkraut, grandparents, old friendships — as part of your meal.
  • Plant a fruit tree! You’ll have to wait a few Tu B’shvats before you’ll be able to eat from it. But just imagine how delicious it will taste. If you have young kids, you can measure the tree’s yearly growth in comparison to your child’s and see when the tree surpasses your child’s height. Look here to see what grows well in your region.
  • This year I’m challenging myself to design a meal in which each of the fruit categories of the seder gets its own course.  We’ll see how it goes.

Erin Taylor is from Lower Merion, Pennsylvania and is a very recent graduate of Tufts University and the Adamah Fellowship (a Jewish sustainable agriculture fellowship). She currently lives, cooks, and gardens in Cambridge, Massachusetts and serves in Gloucester as a FoodCorps service member running a school garden.

Hazon’s Culinary Celebration Of Tu B’Shvat In Philadelphia

— by Ronit Treatman

Hazon, the United States’ largest Jewish environmental group, is hosting its first Tu B’Shvat dinner in Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia community is invited to “a culinary adventure benefiting the Jewish sustainable movement.”

On February 7, 2012, at 5:45 PM, the National Museum of American Jewish History will be transformed into a springtime celebration of rebirth and renewal.  James Beard Award winning Chef Michael Solomonov, of Zahav Restaurant, and Jon Weinrott of Peachtree Kosher Catering are donating their skills to create a meal featuring organically grown produce and dishes integrating such Tu B’Shvat staples as almonds, figs, dates, carobs, and raisins.  

Nigel Savage, executive director of Hazon, will teach the customs and meaning of Tu B’Shvat throughout the evening.  Some of the most creative new music being produced in the Jewish community will be showcased.

This event is honoring Mark and Judy Dornstreich, owners of Branch Creek Farm in Perkasie, PA.  Mark and Judy are pioneering urban, Jewish organic farmers.  They paved the way for the current generation of young Jewish urban farmers.  Judy has taught yoga at Hazon’s gathering at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. The Dornstreichs hosted Hazon’s Harvest Supper in a sukkah at Branch Creek Farm last year.  When I asked Judy why she is involved with Hazon, she responded, “I feel like a Havdalah candle when I am with Hazon.  The three strands of my life are woven together: Judaism, organic farming, and yoga.”  

Mark Aronchick, of Hangley, Aronchik, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller is being honored as well.  “I am no organic farmer,” he told me.  “I became involved in Hazon to participate in their incredible bike ride from Jerusalem to Eilat.”  He loved this strenuous ride so much, that he has participated in it for the past five years.  “But I am an environmentalist,” he continued.  “I am thrilled that Hazon is involved with the Arava Institute in Israel, and that they introduced me to it.”  Mark feels that Hazon has a unique and exciting mission that has captured the attention of the younger generation of the Jewish community.  “They are health conscious, and they are searching spiritually,” he told me.  “Hazon is a catalyst that brings wonderful people together, and creates a community.”    

Hazon collaborates with four Community Supported Agriculture sites in the Philadelphia area.   These CSAs provide nearly 500 homes with fresh, seasonal produce from local farms.  Nigel Savage hopes that Hazon will expand its programming within Philadelphia’s Jewish community.  For tickets to this event please register online.

Tu b’shvat


Reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.

— Rabbi  Arthur Waskow

Tonight is in Jewish tradition the midwinter time called “Tu B’Shvat”  for celebrating with a sacred meal of fruit, nuts, and wine the rebirth of trees and of the sacred Tree of Life that nourishes all the abundance of our planet.

(There is every reason for people of other religious and ethnic communities to join in celebrating the Earth that nourishes us all. And for some, this coming weekend may be a better time.)

In our world today, the flow of life that makes abundance possible is threatened by many Overdoings of the human race – especially by our pouring too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, heating and scorching the earth.

In the spirit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s teaching that “prayer is useless unless it is subversive,”  we must infuse Tu B’Shvat with some political action that protects the physical planet in which we live.  

Ideally, perhaps, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Heschel, we would hold the Seder by nonviolent direct action in the very offices of Senators who are trying to shatter the fragile defenses against climate crisis that are already in place.

But few of us are ready for that kind of action.  We propose instead, ending the Seder with a new ritual: writing, by hand, a letter to our Senators and to our local newspapers. (And you can do this any time, even without a Seder.)

We at The Shalom Center have made available a model text that our members and readers can modify and send your Senators.  You can use this letter
and we encourage you to add your own words and thoughts.

We also urge you to draw on and modify this text for a letter-to-the-editor of your own local and communal newspapers. (See the model text following the jump below.)

For more information on the mystical, intellectual, political, and physical aspects of Tu B’Shvat, see any of the articles on our website.

Blessings of shalom, salaam, peace —  Arthur
 
Sample Letter

Dear Editor,

I have just taken part in a sacred Jewish celebration of God’s creation and the rebirth in this wintry time of trees and of all life. Yet it is already clear that God’s command to protect and heal the Earth is being ignored as we pour still more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.

The rising epidemic of asthma, unprecedented floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia, extreme weather events in Nashville and other American regions, all tell us that the climate crisis is already damaging our lives and our planet.  

Some Senators and Congressmembers in the new Congress are hoping to restrict or cripple the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to carry out its court-ordered mandate to prevent emissions of  CO2 from poisoning our neighborhoods and our country.

We must join in opposing any and all efforts to restrict or cripple EPA’s authority to heal our neighborhoods and our Earth.

Shalom,