Celebrating the Trees

21 Jan

Federation’s Young Ambassadors planting trees in Israel, June 2013

This past Thursday, January 16th, we celebrated the birthday of the trees, or Tu B’Shevat. This minor Jewish holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of Shevat to rejoice in the “New Year of the Trees” and enhance our ecological awareness. Modern-day celebrations in Israel have morphed into quasi “Earth Day” festivities akin to how Americans celebrate Mother Nature on April 22nd.

Why exactly do we celebrate Tu B’Shevat and how do we honor the trees? American tradition holds that we have several “New Year” celebrations including January 1st, the start of the student school year and the start of the fiscal year for a business. Similarly, Judaic traditions don’t just stop at the 1st of the year (Rosh Hashanah). The writings say that we celebrate Tu B’Shevat to mark a day to calculate the ages of trees. No matter when the tree was planted, it has aged one year, according to tradition, by the time Tu B’Shevat rolls around the subsequent year. The 16th century Kabbalists began holding a seder on this day. Their seder highlighted the significance of both fruit and the shivat haminim (Seven Species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates) in our faith. Modern-day celebrations include a seder and/or a more literal celebration of the trees with physical planting (or collecting donations to plant trees in Israel).

While this holiday is not mentioned in the Torah and is categorized as a “minor” holiday, it is still custom to take this day to honor our environment and the sustenance with which Mother Nature provides us.

Source: http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday8.htm

Sammy Robbins is the Joseph J. Edlin Journalism Intern at The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.


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