Before there was Earth
Day, there was Tu B’Shvat—the New Year for Trees, a day to remind us that the
earth is a precious gift. The holiday,
which this year begins at sundown on January 19, was originally the time when
Jews who lived in ancient Israel
gave a tenth of the new fruits they raised to the Levites and priests who cared
for the Temple in Jerusalem as a way of thanking God for the
A few hundred years later,
the Kabbalists developed a Tu B’Shvat Seder, modeled on the Passover Seder,
which celebrated the fruits of the land and their potential for holiness.
Later, the holiday resonated with Jewish pioneers who came to Palestine in the 19th and early 20
centuries. They worked to bring the land back to life, reclaiming deserts,
swamps and neglected fields by planting innumerable trees.
Today, Tu B’Shvat is the
day when Israelis plant saplings throughout the land, a custom that many have
also embraced in communities here in America.
The holiday has also become a day for Jews to focus on environmental
awareness and a connection to the earth.
If you are In search of
ideas and resources to celebrate Tu B’Shvat with your family or friends, check
out the following:
Kline, who gets kids (and even parents) dancing and singing in the
aisles with energetic programs presented with her band ShirLaLa, has put together kid-friendly
resources about the holiday on her holiday blog. She offers tips and guidance
for doing a Tu B’Shvat
Seder, holiday coloring pages; a holiday story, and even directions for
making and decorating a Tu B’Shvat birthday cake. Anyone who places an order
for ShirLaLa’s new CD of eco-music for kids—Earth Worm Disco—receives a free packet of
Butterfly Garden Mix seeds.
- Hazon, America’s largest Jewish
environmental group, is offering a Tu B’Shvat Seder and sourcebook, newly updated for 2011, that is
available in PDF-format making it easy to print in multiples for a family or a
larger gathering. This beautifully
conceived and illustrated piece comes complete with teachings and explanations
that weave together mysticism and environmentalism with an appreciation for the
blessings of creation. Other materials
are also featured on the Hazon site, including leader’s guide, songs, and
videos teaching you how to create a memorable Tu B’Shvat Seder. HAZON is even sponsoring a contest for the most
creative use of its materials.