Topic: Tu B’Shvat

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We Are One: Tu B’Shvat and MLK, Sustainability & Justice

Friends, We find ourselves immersed in another dark pandemic winter, a reality we could not have fathomed two years ago. And as the pandemic drags on, our social fabric continues to fray, while the climate crisis continues unabated. Then, into this moment comes the Texas synagogue hostage incident, thankfully unfolding without any hostage injuries or deaths, yet still traumatic for all involved, and for Jewish communities – and our allies – everywhere. It is difficult to avoid feeling overwhelmed and exhausted amidst times like these. Last night, we held an online event with hundreds of people from across the country, entitled We Are One: An Environmental Justice Tu B’Shvat Seder, honoring Tu B’Shvat– the New Year for the Trees – and Martin Luther King Jr Day, our American prophet of racial justice, civil rights, and nonviolent civil disobedience. During our seder, Janna Siller, Adamah Farm Director & Advocacy Coordinator, spoke of Tu B’Shvat as a deep accounting of our relationship with the Trees and with the Earth. MLK Day presents a similar obligation, to undertake a deep accounting of our society.  Such an accounting is called cheshbon hanefesh in Hebrew, an accounting of the soul. Tu B’Shvat demands a new year’s accounting […]

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Hakhel Newsletter January 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, This week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, is the scene of many incredible miracles that have captured the imagination of countless generations: the splitting of the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape Egypt; the manna that rained down from Heaven to provide them with sustenance in the desert, with a double portion on Friday in preparation for Shabbat; the water that emanated from the stone. Through all of these miracles, we feel the immense, special love and protection of G-d. In your lifetime, have you experienced any acts that seemed divine? What about your community, in what ways has it received love and protection that allowed it to grow and flourish? This Sunday, we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of the trees. This is a wonderful holiday to celebrate with your community, as it comes with a unique Seder that is an interactive, sensory experience through the eating of specific fruits and nuts and the drinking of wine. It also carries with it powerful messages from Kabbalah and about our connection to and stewardship of the Earth. Regardless of how you choose to mark the day personally, we hope you will join Hazon in a special virtual […]

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Thoughts on this Tu B’Shvat

Thursday, January 28, 2021 | Tu B’Shvat 5781   Dear All, One of the questions underpinning the entire Jewish environmental movement is the question: to what end? If we want to make a difference in the world, can’t we – shouldn’t we – just support 350.org, or the Sierra Club? And my answer is that we should – and Hazon, over the years, has partnered with both organizations, and many others outside of the Jewish community. But we’re half way through an 8-part series, learning with Rabbi Yedidya Sinclair about masechet ta’anit, and reading ta’anit closely to develop from it a sense of what a contemporary Jewish climate theology might look like. And in this week’s class, I really did have a deep moment of clarity, which I want to share with you, on Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat, of course, is “the new year for trees.” This year we’re one of the anchor partners for the Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest, and we hope you’ll join us for one or more of the 160+ sessions that are happening from now through Sunday. One can talk – and we have, and we will – about the history of Tu B’Shvat, how […]

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Light In The Darkness

Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 28th Tevet 5781   Dear All, Tomorrow night it’s Rosh Chodesh Shvat. The beginning of the beginnings. Next week a new president, a new government. The week after it’s Tu B’Shvat and the Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest. The almond trees will start to bloom. Then longer days, more sunlight, vaccines… it’s a whole new world. Well – not entirely. Of course we have lives lost, structural racism, pollution and environmental destruction, people still sick from long-Covid. The new president and vice-president are gonna have to clean up a heck of a mess. (Much of it, of course, predating these last four years; too much of it, of course, made worse these last four years.) In any case – we live poised between fear and hope. That is always part of life; it’s just that this last year it has been more so. But the whole point of this season – of all of our new beginnings – is that we actually believe in hope; in an almost theological sense we have the intuition that the first step to recovery, of any sort, is to imagine its possibility. “That’s why vision is so important. We need a […]

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Earth Day, JTree, and Tu B’Shvat

By Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein Hazon Rabbi-in-Residence What is Tu B’Shvat? What is a Tu B’Shvat Seder? Not one, but four times over the course of the year we are called upon to mark a new year, a rosh hashanah. Of these four new years in the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1), it is taught that the 15th of Shvat (Tu B’Shvat) is the new year for the trees. Only one rosh hashanah became popularized as the Rosh Hashanah, when we reflect on our actions, pray for the wellness of the year, and perform teshuva. When the Temple service in Jerusalem ceased, the other three new years effectively went dormant for about 1500 years. The holy kabbalists under the leadership of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) created a new Tu B’Shvat tradition with the multi-sensory seder we experience today. Humanity and Trees in the Jewish Tradition Though Tu B’Shvat was paused, trees continued to grow both in reality and on the pages of Jewish texts. In Jewish tradition, a relationship was formed between trees and humanity in the first week (see Gen. 2:9) and it still exists today. In fact, later in the Torah, we are reminded that it is forbidden to cut down a tree during times of war (Deut. 20:19). The […]

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The British general election, Tu B’Shvat and Richard Powers

By Nigel Savage Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | 2nd Shvat 5780 Dear All, What does Tu B’Shvat mean in 2020? It’s a deeper question than it may at first seem. It’s the “new year for trees.” And we indeed associate it with trees and fruits and perhaps a Tu B’Shvat seder. Ok – but beyond that? Answering this involves a certain kind of leap of faith. (It is not for me a theological leap. If I had to make a theological leap I’d barely get across a little puddle…) It’s a leap of faith in relation to the deep wisdom of an ancient tradition, in our unsettled post-postmodern age. We have to assume – and trust – and somehow really believe – that Jewish tradition isn’t just for kids. It’s not about the formal structures of Jewish life or responding to antisemitism or leaning in to Israel or any of those things. Such things may come from faith in the wisdom of Jewish tradition, but they can’t drive it. When they do our soil becomes depleted and we use the equivalent of pesticides or other interventions as a quick fix; and, as we are all learning, quick fixes like that […]

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Kaddish for my father

Last year Tu B’Shvat fell on a Tuesday evening. We’d arrived that morning in Johannesburg, and just a few days before I’d Googled and found a Tu B’Shvat seder. It was in a place called Huddle Park. We didn’t know anyone there, but it was my 33rd consecutive Tu B’Shvat seder, and it was absolutely one of the most beautiful. This very lush park, an urban wetland, full of long grasses and exotic trees. There was a long long silent meditation walk that went on for almost an hour. I walked in the gathering darkness, and the huge full moon of Shvat came up and brought moonlight to this unfamiliar landscape. I was thinking about my Dad as I was walking. I’d been in Manchester the week before, and he was weakening very significantly. It was a strange and intense and beautiful experience, essentially alone in Africa, in this unfamiliar place, celebrating a holiday that I love, walking, thinking about my dad. And we got back to the hotel, tired and jetlagged, sorting stuff to go on safari the next morning, and the phone rang. It was my mother, to tell us that my Dad had died. He’d died about […]

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Hazon Detroit: Growth Ring Blessings

Dear Friends, At sunset this Sunday, January 20th, we will usher  in Tu B’Shvat, one of the four new years on the Jewish calendar. Just like our secular calendar has multiple year cycles—think calendar year, fiscal year, school year—so too, our Jewish calendar has multiple year cycles: birth of the world, birth of the Jewish people, the first of Elul, and Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat, named for its calendrical date – the 15th of Shvat – celebrates the birthday of the trees. Just like our birthdays mark a year of growth for us, in a symbolic way, Tu B’Shvat serves the same purpose for trees, marking another year of their growth. Regardless of when during the year a particular tree was planted in ancient times, its first birthday was always tallied on its first Tu B’Shvat. In this way, Tu B’Shvat might be considered the day when a tree symbolically forms its next ring. We have reached the cold months of winter when, like us, trees actually slow down for a period of internal hibernation. In cold winters, growth within a tree slows to a slogging crawl, before picking back up again when the temperatures rise. In fact, it is […]

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Tu B’Shvat: Bonna Haberman, MLK, Jim Joseph and my Dad…

My first Tu B’Shvat seder was with Bonna and Shmuel Haberman Browns, in London, in 1986. Bonna z”l was an amazing woman, who died too young. (This was my tribute to her that The Forward published at the time of her death.) It was memorable and beautiful enough that I hosted or attended a seder every year from then until last year. And then last year, half an hour after we got back from my 33rd annual Tu B’Shvat seder, my mother phoned to say that my father had died. So Tu B’Shvat has always been important to me, and its implicit themes about cycles of life have now been reinforced for me by the inextricable ways that its memory is bound up for me in memories of my Dad and of Bonna. Eight years ago Devora Joseph Davey gave us funding, through the foundation created in her father’s name, to create a Tu B’Shvat haggadah, and we’ve republished that every year since. This year, both in honor of my father, and because Tu B’Shvat in 2019 falls on MLK weekend, we’ve substantially revised our haggadah. Lisa Kaplan, Elan Margulies, David Rendsburg, and Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein led the charge, and my great thanks go […]

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What is Tu B’Shvat and Why Do We Celebrate It?

by Nigel Savage Introduction to the new Hazon Tu B’Shvat Haggadah You can trace the recent history of  Tu B’Shvat seders like branches on a tree. The first one I went to, in London in 1986, was hosted by Bonna Haberman z”l and Shmuel Browns, mentors to me and many others in the renewal of Jewish ritual. I made my own seder the following  Tu B’Shvat, and I’ve made or attended one every year since. Seders, like trees, grow branches, and the branches sprout fruit in all directions. Historical Roots The roots of Tu B’Shvat stretch back to the beginnings of organized Jewish life. We learn from the Mishnah (Tractate Rosh Hashanah) that “the New Year of the Trees” divided the tithing of one year’s crop from the next – the end and start of the tax year, so to speak. After the expulsion from the Land of Israel, Tu B’Shvat went underground, like a seed, ungerminated, lying beneath the soil of Jewish thought and life. The expulsion from Spain in 1492 scattered Jews in many directions, and some landed in Tzfat. Like a forest fire that cracks open seeds dormant for decades, Tzfat’s kabbalists rediscovered Tu B’Shvat and began […]

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Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Jared Kaminsky, Shoresh Parshat Shoftim The parsha of the week is Shoftim, which means Judges. As Moses nears the end of his life, he wants to ensure there is a system of governance in society. Shoftim gives detailed ordinances on many topics of law, including appointing judges, laws that kings should follow, creating cities of refuge when crimes are committed, and the rules of war. For example, the parsha states that appointed judges are forbidden from taking bribes and there must be two credible witnesses for a conviction. Another ordinance demands that kings must not have too many horses and must always carry around two Torah scrolls to remind them that G-D is above them. The Torah even provides a city of refuge for those who accidentally murdered someone to live in safety! While many of these laws do not apply to modern society, there are some important insights into preventing corruption and treatment of humankind that we can still learn from. Moses recognized that every generation has the obligation to critically examine and apply the laws of the Torah. As Jews we should examine the laws that govern the places we live and work to protect the rights of […]

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Tu b’Shvat is not just for kids

Tu b’Shvat is “the new year for trees.” But, above and beyond the history – the tax year in temple times; the kabbalists in Safed; the JNF; the contemporary Jewish environmental movement – the deeper question is, what can, could, or should Tu b’Shvat mean to me today?

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When a Donkey Speaks Truth to Power | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Hannah Slipakoff, Jewish Farm School, Philadelphia, PA Parashat Balak In this week’s Parasha, Balak (Numbers 22:2- 25:9), we read a tale about the ways in which kindness and gratitude contribute to justice and G-dliness, and an allegory relating systemic patterns of oppression to land: King Balak of Moab, a ruler whose name means devastator, empty, or wasting, desperately attempts to curse the Israelites. He despises the Tribe of Jacob so deeply, that he attempts to hire Balaam to damn the Israelites for him: There is a people that came out of Egypt; it hides the earth from view, and it is settled next to me. Come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed indeed, and he whom you curse is cursed. ~Numbers 22:5-22:7 Balaam mounts a literal WISE ass (inciteful female donkey) and sets out on his wicked task. The Divine however, has a different plan. G-d sends an armed angel to disrupt Balaam’s path, and each time the donkey attempts to avoid danger, Balaam fiercely beats her. […]

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Here’s what you can do this Tu b’Shvat

From Nigel Savage Dear All, Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish celebration of trees, is observed this Friday night (February 10th) and Saturday (February 11th). This holiday offers us a midwinter moment to take stock of our relationship with Jewish tradition, the natural world, and one another – a process we need this year more than ever. When the Torah describes Jewish tradition as the “tree of life” it is saying not merely that trees in themselves are important but that they are a profound metaphor for the goodness of human civilization on this planet. Our Torah is a “tree of life” because, just as trees grow and flourish and nourish us, so too we hope that Jewish tradition and the Jewish people will grow and flourish and nourish the world. And this is a year in which we all need to step up so that these are not merely words. At Hazon, we’re striving to make a difference. We’re rolling out our Hazon Seal of Sustainability. We’re striving to reduce our own footprint. We’re providing resources to rabbis around the country. We’re partnering with a wide range of our fellow JOFEE organizations. And we’re working with 350.org and a wide range of […]

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Bring Hazon to your community for Tu B’Shvat!

Tu B’Shvat is a perfect holiday to learn about creating a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable planet.  Enrich your Tu B’Shvat programming by featuring a Hazon speaker at your Tu B’Shvat seder, or bringing a Teva educator to run a youth program at your school or synagogue. For more information and to create a unique Tu B’Shvat experience for your community, contact info@hazon.org Hazon Staff Guest Speaker at Your Tu B’Shvat Seder Hazon staff can speak to your community about the New Jewish Food Movement, Tu B’Shvat themes, the upcoming Shmita year and a variety of other Jewish environmental topics. Send us an email or call us so that we can get a sense of your community and its needs, and we’ll match you with the right person for your seder. Cost: travel + honorarium Elementary/Middle School programs with Teva Educators in the NY region Teva educators are trained to create fun and meaningful educational experiences, on the trail or in the classroom, combining Jewish values and environmental stewardship. Bring them to your community to lead a 1 – 2 hour experiential program (for your classroom, youth group, etc) for groups of 25 – 100 […]

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