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

What You Need to Know About Stieg Larsson Before Seeing ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’

Naomi Pfefferman over at the Jewish Journal has posted an interesting interview about Stieg Larsson of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” fame — just in time for the U.S. film release. (In theaters tomorrow!)

Pfefferman examines Larsson’s history fighting neo-Nazi movements in Europe and his grandfather’s time spent in a little known Swedish concentration camp.

I read Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and couldn’t put them down. An amazing investigation into modern evil – from the financial industry to far-right anti-democratic movements. With his fantastic protagonist Lisbeth Salander, Larsson flips the femme fatale script on its head. This girl uses her wicked smarts, rough-hewn moral code, and a vicious instinct for life to overcome her attackers. These novels are very violent–but it’s violence with a purpose and it takes readers into worlds where many people live and most of us would never ever want to visit.

Here’s an excerpt from Pfefferman’s article:

Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author of the international best-selling “Millennium” series, including “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” died in 2004 at age 50 of a heart attack, before the publication of his crime thrillers made him one of the most famous writers of the decade. They have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, already spawned three Swedish films and, on Dec. 21, fans will no doubt be lining up for the opening of Hollywood’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, with a screenplay by the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” scribe Steven Zaillian. (The film opens in selected theaters on Dec. 20.)

But amid all this “Stieg industry,” as the late author’s life partner, Eva Gabrielsson, put it, a crucial element often has been overlooked: Just how much Larsson embedded in his novels a fundamental passion of his life — his crusade against neo-Nazism and violent far-right movements, which he viewed as anathema to Sweden and to all modern society.

“Those who see Stieg solely as an author of crime fiction have never truly known him,” Gabrielsson writes in her memoir, “There Are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me” (released last June by Seven Stories,and due out in paperback on Jan. 10). The “Millennium” series, she said, “is only one episode in Steig’s journey through this world, and it certainly isn’t his life’s work.”

“The trilogy is an allegory of the individual’s eternal fight for justice and morality, the values for which Stieg Larsson fought until the day he died,” Marie-Francoise Colombani wrote in the foreword to Gabrielsson’s book. … –by Naomi Pfefferman

Read Pfefferman’s whole article.