In a few weeks we will be celebrating Tu BiSh’vat. There are numerous approaches you could take in planning your celebration. The information on Tu BiSh’vat includes resources for seders, historical background and links to related topics.
Trees and the Environment
The Religious Action Center presents environmental issues through a Jewish lens including a history of the Reform Movement’s commitment to protecting the environment, legislative issues and resources ranging from endangered species to clean water. The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) deepens and broadens the Jewish community’s commitment to stewardship and protection of the Earth through outreach, activism and Jewish learning. The COEJL website provides suggestions for advocacy, Jewish texts, and suggestions for weaving environmental concerns into the fabric of Jewish life.
If you are looking for a wide variety of Jewish texts for inclusion in a Tu BiSh’vat Seder or to clarify your understanding of our responsibility as partners in creation, The Way into Judaism and the Environment, by Jeremy Benstein, is a helpful volume. Dr. Benstein is the director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership. The book weaves Jewish tradition, theology and modern scientific thinking to provide a framework for environmental awareness and activism.
Tu BiSh’vat and Israel
The connection between Tu BiSh’vat and Israel provides an opportunity to consider Israel from other perspectives than how it is presented on the news. Tu BiSh’vat is referred to as the Birthday of the Trees. The Jewish National Fund has used Tu BiSh’vat to connect the Diaspora with Israel and to encourage support of its programs. The JNF site provides information on the work of JNF and the environmental issues facing Israel today. The URJ Israel page provides links to resources and programs in Israel. From there it is easy to access ARZA, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Rabbi Marc Rosenstein’s Galilee Diary focuses on daily life in Israel and provides a first person view. Through the Galilee Diary entries we are given a glimpse of the Israel behind the headlines. For another perspective, NFTY’s Israel Thing is a blog written by the NFTY Shaliach, Roey Schiff.
Reform Judaism and Tu BiSh’vat
The significance of Tu BiSh’vat has increased over the years from the planting trees in Israel to connecting to the environment to hosting a Tu BiSh’vat Seder. For an explanation of Reform observances, Rabbi Mark Washofsky’s Jewish Living provides the background information. Foodies can have their own connection to the holiday. To experiment with the holiday’s connections to the seven species mentioned in the Bible, try The Seven Species: Stories and Recipes inspired by the Food of the Bible by Matt Biers-Ariel and Entree to Judaism by Tina Wasserman. Both books provide background stories for the recipes.
Rabbi Joan Glazer Farber is adult learning specialist for the Union for Reform Judaism. Originally published in Ten Minutes of Torah.