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Tu BiShvat, the precursor to Earth Day, should make us alert to our air, water, animals, and foliage – and all that we’re doing to destroy them.
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.
Sadie is determined to plant a tree for Tu BiShvat, the birthday of the trees. She imagines one that will eventually grow big enough to hold a swing and yield crunchy, sweet apples. Unfortunately, it is winter where she lives – but she keeps on trying.
The way we celebrate Tu BiShvat has changed over the years – a case-in-point of how Jewish life and observance has been transformed in our day, due in no small part thanks to the successes of the State of Israel.