The Hazon CSA community in Elkins Park (Philadelpha, PA) hosted another outstanding Tu Bishvat seder this year. (Click here to see photos from their seder last year.) Their organizers shared this list of individual commitments that folks wrote down for the year, to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, a healthier and more sustainable world for all. May they serve as an inspiration for all of us in the coming season!
Leave your own resolutions in the comments.
- Go outside more
- Take shorter showers
Originally published at My Jewish Learning.
Over the last decade, seders for Tu Bishvat have spiked in popularity. This growth is largely due to the contemporary Jewish community’s interest in “greening” ritual and holidays. Every year, the number of organizations turning to Tu Bishvat to inject some sustainability-awareness into their annual programming grows, as does the collection of environmentally-inspired haggadot for Tu Bishvat available online. (Like this one from My Jewish Learning, this one from Hillel, and this one from Hazon.)
The downside is that some people shy away from celebrating the holiday precisely because it feels too “hippie” or eco-spiritual. But while the Tu Bishvat seder, which was originally developed as a mystical celebration by kabbalists in 16th century Safed, provides a helpful structure for celebrating Tu Bishvat, there are no official rules for the holiday. The lack of halakhic requirements means that seders can be tailored to meet their hosts’ personalities–even if they happen to prefer fine china over bicompostable dishware.
Thanks to Maya Bernstein for this Guest Post. Maya is the Director of Education and Leadership Initiatives at UpStart Bay Area. She blogs weekly on Jewish social entrepreneurship at Upstart, and on motherhood for Lilith magazine. This is cross-posted from UpStart Bay Area – the Bay Area headquarters for Jewish Social Entrepreneurs.
Had you told me that 260 Jewish Gen X-ers and Millenials, from Santa Cruz, the Peninsula, the East Bay, Marin, and San Francisco, many of whom are part of CSAs, and some of whom had never heard of a CSA, whose favorite trees include eucalyptus, olive, cherry, and redwood, would crowd together in the assembly hall of the Women’s Building in the Mission District, swaying like palm trees to the Israeli folk-dance “Tzadik Katamar Yifrach” (the righteous will grow like palm trees), I would have raised a cynical eyebrow in your direction. Since, though, I was swaying like a palm tree along with the crowd, I can assure you that this year’s Second Annual Bay Area Eco Tu B’Shevat Seder was a sight to behold.
Tu B’Shvat marks the fifteenth day in the month of Shvat, a day which the Mishnah, a codification of oral Jewish law redacted in the 200 CE, marks as the New Year of the Trees. The holiday largely fell into oblivion when the Jewish people were not living in the Land of Israel and not connected to its agricultural cycles, or obligated in the biblical tithes of its fruit, but, in the 17th century, was re-invigorated by the Kabbalists in Tzefat, who infused the holiday with mystical meaning and developed a ritual, analogous to the Passover Seder, to mark it. In recent times, Tu B’Shvat has become the “little holiday that could,” pulling behind it those passionate about the environment and social action, those interested in celebrating a Jewish holiday connected to nature and community, and one which involves drinking four cups of wine.
Tu Bish’vat is here, along with the delightful hunt in the market for new fruits, some exotic, some uneaten since Rosh Hashanah, and the chance to sit around the table and have a seder that is truly free-form and creative, without any rules about what we are supposed to do or say.
One element of the seder is this exuberance of fruit, all of its colors, smells, and textures. There’s even a special blessing to say for the sweet smell of fruit! Tu Bish’vat is not generally a “locavore’s” holiday, especially here in Western Massachussetts, where only a few of the fruits we can buy are local. (Back in Berkeley it was quite different, not only because you can get so many fruits grown locally in mid-winter, but also because you can go to the Berkeley Bowl and experience the most diverse, exuberant and orgasmic produce section that most human beings will every see.)
There is, however, an order to the seder (seder after all means “order”), something to structure this exuberance, moving from the hard shelled fruits (mostly nuts) to the ones with pits to the ones whose seeds and peels can be swallowed and eaten. This brings up some interesting botanical and culinary questions.
Hazon’s Tu Bishvat seder was lots of fun – we sang, we kibbutzed, ate an amazing meal, and listened to some inspiring words by Dr. Eilon Schwartz of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Israel. *Note our take on sustainable centerpieces – fresh herbs in glass jars surrounded by pecans. It’s low-key, lovely and edible (after the seder you can make parsley pesto and pecan pie!). Who says you need cut flowers?
Thanks to our friends at the amazing new Israeli environmental blog, Green Prophet for this guest post. Tu Bishvat may have been yesterday, but Hazon’s seder is tonight, so we’re still in a celebratory mood. Hag Sameach!
Although Israel has grown into a modern post-industrial economy, the country still has strong agrarian roots, most famously, the agricultural socialist community of the kibbutz.
So it’s no surprise that the relatively minor Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat, which starts tonight, has been growing in importance. In recent years Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, has taken on a more ecological significance and represents an opportunity to reflect on one of today’s key environmental questions – the impact of what we eat on our environment.
Between luscious bites of pomegranate or dutiful bites of carob, why not surf over to hoarded ordinaries, who are hosting this month’s festival of the trees -
“a monthly blog carnival for all things arboreal. Like other blog carnivals, the Festival of the Trees is a collection of links to blog posts and other spots on the web, hosted each month at a different blog.”
While planning tonight’s Tu Bishvat Seder at the Moishe House Boston: Kavod Jewish Social Justice House, I’ve been scouring Jewish environmental resources and looking around for the most sustainable way to purchase fruits and nuts which are most certainly not locally grown in New England. A friend also planning the Seder has been looking around for seeds for the traditional American Tu Bishvat parsley planting. While I was certainly aware of the current Shmitta year in Israel, it has only recently come to our attention that this could create a potential question around whether or not to plant parsley at our Seder.
Tuesday, January 22, 7:00 pm
Join Hazon for our 6th annual Tu B’Shevat seder. Learn, be inspired, eat a delicious dinner and organic fruits and nuts, and drink four cups of wine as we celebrate the holiday of the trees. Examine how food connects us to Jewish tradition, to the Earth, to other people, and to ourselves. With special guest teacher Dr. Eilon Schwartz of the Heschel Center in Israel.
The seder sells out every year – so register today! Cost is $30. Registration required: www.jccmanhattan.org or 646 505 5708
Questions? Leah Koenig | 212 644 2332 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year, my Tu Bishvat wrap-up post dealt with the question of the mysterious end to the Tu Bishvat seder. After eating foods that are edible on the inside, then outside, then all the way through, the final section of the Tu Bishvat seder has us eating nothing at all. In explanation, I offered this quote from Maggid of Mezritch, the Chasidic master Dov Baer:
“You can trace the recent history of Tu B’shevat seders like branches on a tree.” – Nigel Savage, Jerusalem Post, 2004
The Jew & The Carrot Presents: Healthy, Sustainable Tu B’shevat Resources
Click here to peruse The Jew & The Carrot’s Tu B’shevat Resource List, for helpful tips and ideas to create your own Tu B’shevat seder, or celebrate the holiday of the trees in sustainable style. If you have any ideas or tips you’ve picked up from a Tu B’shevat past, please share them below.
Join Hazon for our 6th annual Tu B’shvat seder at the JCC in Manhattan. Learn, be inspired, eat a delicious dinner and a seder of organic fruits and nuts, and drink four cups of wine as we celebrate the holiday of the trees. Examine how food connects us to Jewish tradition, to the Earth, to other people, and to ourselves.
Tuesday January, 22
$30 (includes dinner and wine)
The JCC in Manhattan 334 Amsterdam Avenue @ 76th Street
Register here or call 646-505-5708
Planning your own Tu B’shevat seder? Check out The Jew & The Carrot’s Healthy and Sustainable Tu B’shevat Resources.
“All the Jewish holidays come to remind us of something that we should be doing year round. We should always strive to be our best selves – but if we forget, Rosh Hashana comes to remind us. And we should always strive to get rid of the fluff and superfluity in our lives—but if we forget, the period between Purim and Pesach is a reminder. And Tu B’Shevat…the new year of the trees…what does it come to remind us of?”
“Tu B’Shevat, comes to remind us of our connection to the natural world. To the earth. To seasons. To the cycle of growing things. And also to our responsibility to care for those things.”
This was Leah Koenig, sharing words of wisdom via Shlomo Carlbach and Nigel Savage, at the 7th Annual Park Slope Tu B’Shevat Seder this past Monday.