Written by: Leah Zigmond
Tu b’Shvat falls on February 11th this year, and will be celebrated by eating dried fruit, singing songs about flowering trees, and (after Shabbat) planting trees in communities all over the world. Tu b’shvat is a minor holiday, but a holiday deserving recognition. Tu b’Shvat perfectly embodies the spirit of Zionism at Camp Judaea. Here is my endorsement for making Tu b’shvat a part of your family’s Jewish practice this year:
Historically, the fifteenth of the Jewish month of Shvat became a special day because of a commandment in the Torah that instructed Jewish farmers to contribute 10% of the fruit from their orchards each year to the temple, to help support the priesthood. The problem was, the farmers had to be able to determine when the growth started and which fruit to count. They decided that the date that trees began to flower would be considered the new year. After some arguing among farmers of the plains and valleys of the small but geographically diverse land of Israel, it was decided that the 15th of Shvat would be accepted as the new year of the trees. The name Tu b’Shvat comes from the gematria which attributes numerical values to Hebrew letters, the acronym tet-vav (Tu) carries the value of 15.
Today many celebrate the holiday of Tu b’Shvat as a Jewish Earth Day, planting trees, eating fruits, and taking time to consider our connection to the land. Take a moment to consider these questions,
- What is my relationship with the land and place that I live in? How do I affect it and how does it affect me?
- What is my relationship with the Land of Israel?
- How can I work to be a steward of the land for future generations, through the food I eat, the way I get from place to place, and the way I live?
A Prayer for Planting Trees
Deepen the roots of these saplings that we are planting today.
Help them to grow and beautify the land in its splendor, together with all the trees of the earth.
Help us too, to put down roots in the earth. Let us grow together with these trees we plant—with blessing and with intention.
Let us be blessed together with all the people of the earth.
As it is written, the fields will be lush and all that is in them; and all the trees of the forest will sing (Psalm 96:12).
(adapted from the siddur HaAvodah Sh’b’Lev, the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism Prayer book)