From Cantor Lee
Since I love to be outside working in my garden, Tu B’Shvat, a holiday when we honor trees and nature is one of my favorite times of the year! In our Hebrew School when our younger children plant seeds or other plants for Tu B’Shvat I always make sure they leave with the following instructions; “Keep your plant moist and in the sun and don’t forget to talk to it every day -send it Love and Light!”
I grew up in a house where my mother talked to her plants so for me communicating with plants comes naturally. And yes, it does help! When I lived up north people would bring me their sick houseplants and I would nurse them back to health. These days in beautiful Florida, most of my gardening is done outside where I spend time each day communicating with everything growing in my yard. Even when I take my daily walks I like to talk to the trees along my path and send them energy. “Do they answer me back?’ I can just imagine some people would laughingly ask! And the answer is yes! But not in our third dimensional way of speaking!
I do feel much more balanced when I commune with nature. In spiritual circles we are taught to put our bare feet on the earth for at least 15 minutes a day. The Earthing Movement has become quite popular over the past few years which explains that the earth does have energies that help to keep us healthy. http://www.earthinginstitute.net/
Well, enough time inside. I am off to talk to the trees and tell them Happy Tu B’Shvat!
From Rabbi David aka The Reb
One of the greatest strengths of Judaism is its ability to adapt to the different needs of the Jewish people in different times in our history. At times rules and traditions were modified in order to adapt to the needs of the people. What is even more important is the realization that our understanding of some holidays was augmented with the understanding that they serve a more global purpose. Chanukah and Passover are now portrayed not only in the context of a Jewish struggle, but as human beings struggling for freedom from oppression everywhere.
Tu B’Shvat is a Jewish holiday which has received global importance in the last few decades. Its original purpose was to mark the growth cycles of fruit trees in Israel. The Torah teaches that fruit of a young tree is not allowed to be used for the first three years of the life of the tree. The fruit of the fourth year is to be taken to the Temple in Jerusalem to be used by the priest, the Levites and the poor. Tu B’Shvat, (literally , the 15th day of the Hebrew early spring month of Sh’vat) was the cutoff day to calculate of the age of the trees. In the early years as a free nation in the land of Israel, the significance of the holiday was expanded to include traditions of planting trees everywhere in the country.
Our ancestors had a keen understanding of the vulnerability of the semi desert land of Israel. They realized that as custodians of the earth we had to preserve it as a fertile land, by planting trees as well as enacting restrictions on cutting trees in particular or abusing nature in any other way. So much so, that the rabbis declared that if a person is planting a tree and the messiah suddenly arrives, he must complete the planting before rushing to greet the messiah.
There are many biblical laws meant to preserve and protect nature including land, vegetation and animals. Over many years, as the land of Israel was exposed to many invaders and was constantly bruised by them, these laws became increasingly important to us.
When the Zionist pioneers returned to the land of Israel they were shocked at how two thousand years of neglect turned most of the land into a desert. Reclaiming the land back by planting became the most important act of national renewal in our land of Israel.
In the last few decades the Tu B’Shvat celebration was transformed from a minor Jewish holiday into a Jewish celebration of mother earth. It is now a day of reflection on the less then perfect job we human beings have been doing as custodians of the earth. We reflect on the damage that our modern lifestyle and our callousness have inflicted upon earth. Tu B’Shvat has become an arbor day with a Jewish context.
The connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel goes beyond global concern for earth and for nature. Judaism has several main principles which are very much intertwined and co dependent. Judaism is the belief in one G-D, in the Torah and in the Jewish people as a nation spreading the word of G-D from a very specific, sanctified and holy land call the land of Israel. These Jewish “components” work together to create Judaism. Removing any of these, such as taking away the land from the mix will severely hurt Judaism and will impede its existence. In the modern state of Israel, therefore, the holiday of Tu B’Shvat is a celebration of a nation reclaiming its holy land which was taken from us years ago , so that the Shechina, the spirit of G-D, will be able to dwell on earth and bring Peace and Brotherly Love onto earth.