Happy New Year to the Trees!

“When you come to the land and you plant any tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden and not eaten. In the fourth year, all of its fruit shall be sanctified to praise the L-RD. In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit.”–Leviticus 19:23-25

“There are four new years… the first of Shevat is the new year for trees according to the ruling of Beit Shammai; Beit Hillel, however, places it on the fifteenth of that month.”–Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1

On the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat we are invited to celebrate a New Year for the Trees, rejoicing in the fruit of the tree and the fruit of the vine, celebrating the splendid, abundant gifts of the natural world which give our senses delight and our bodies life. It’s a chance to celebrate the wholeness of nature’s body –trees, water, fruits, soil, sun, and us — and delight with God in what God has made. Many communities celebrate by gathering with children to plant trees and celebrate a special “fruit seder.”

…Thousands of years ago Rabbis, in their deepest wisdom, knew that trees are literally our life support system. In a religion focused for much of its history on survival, Jews recognized early on that when societies stopped planting and caring for trees those trees disappeared, and along with them went their soil, their food and their water.  When that happened those societies disappeared.  Perhaps that’s why we have, and continue to need a holiday with the sole purpose of remembering and appreciating trees.

Tu B’Shevat celebrates a victory over disappearance, and contains vital wisdom to remind us what’s needed not only to survive today, but to thrive.–Andy Lipkis, Jewish Journal

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