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Since 1970, the United States has celebrated Earth Day every April. By contrast, ancient Jewish celebrations throughout the year remind us of our responsibility to safeguard the fragile planet God has entrusted to our care. Almost all of our Jewish observances reflect environmental concerns.
We read, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” These words have taken on deep meaning for me as I came out of the closet, got married, and had kids of my own: Our freedom and redemption are founded on being inclusive and welcoming.
At seder tables, we ask four questions to remind ourselves of our purpose. This year, we ask you to add four more questions to connect our ancient rituals to the demands of this moment in the struggle for racial justice.
For many of us, Tu BiShvat, the Jewish holiday that celebrates trees and the earth, falls in the middle of the coldest, snowiest part of the year. Nonetheless, here are seven ways you can celebrate the new year of the trees and planet Earth
Collectively known as shivat haminim, the Seven Species are sacred fruits and grains grown in the Land of Israel. Eating these foods, especially during the holiday of Tu BiShvat, has become a popular way for Jews around the world to maintain a connection to Israel.
The Jewish mystics of the 17th century, the Kabbalists, created a special ritual—modeled after the Passover seder—to celebrate God's presence in nature. Today in modern Israel, Tu BiShvat has become a national holiday, a tree planting festivaTu BiShvat is not mentioned in the Torah. Scholars believe the holiday was originally an agricultural festival, corresponding to the beginning of spring in Israel. But a critical historical event helped Tu BiShvat evolve from a simple celebration of spring to a commemoration of our connection to the land of Israel. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the exile that followed, many of the exiled Jews felt a need to bind themselves symbolically to their former homeland. Tu BiShvat served in part to fill that spiritual need. Jews used this time each year to eat a variety of fruits and nuts that could be obtained from Israel. The practice, a sort of physical association with the land, continued for many centuries.l for both Israelis and Jews throughout the world
Although the celebration of Tu BiShvat has a long and varied history, the theme most commonly ascribed to the holiday today is the environment.
Lag BaOmer is a shorthand way of saying the 33rd day of the Omer. (The numerical value of the Hebrew letter lamed is 30, and the value of gimel is three; lamed and gimel together are pronounced “lahg.”) In addition to tracking the agricultural cycle, the Omer marks the seven-week period from Passover, which commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, to Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
The period between Passover and Shavuot is called the “Counting of the Omer” (Sefirat Ha'omer).