Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tu B'Shevat February 7

The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, 
have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, 
and so many generations pass into silence, 
that we may well wonder what "the story of the trees" would be to us 
if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand. 

-Author Unknown-

Tu B'Shevat is the beginning of a new year, not for people, but for trees.   The Tu B'Shevat seder is an old tradition. It is  the Jewish Arbor Day, the 'birthday of the trees'. Some Jews celebrate by planting trees or seeds. Others celebrate the holiday by purchasing trees to be planted in Israel.  A lovely Sephardic folktale relates that at midnight of Tu B'Shevat the trees stretch out their branches and embrace each other, wishing each other a good new year. 

Trees and plants were important in the ancient world. Trees furnished wood for construction of buildings, boats, furniture and smaller articles. Many trees provided nutritious and tasty fruit. Grains and vegetables were cultivated and wild plants were gathered. Other plants were used for food, medicinal purposes, herbs and spices, incense important for use in sacrifices, rope and cloth fibers. 

The Torah teaches one to respect the gifts of nature, including plant life and trees. The holiday is often celebrated by eating fruit, planting seeds and recognizing the importance of nature and the ecology. The traditional food for this  seder is historically vegetarian. One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day, or to eat from the Seven Species wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey.

The following story comes from the Talmud.

One day, Honi was walkingon the road and saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man, "How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?"

The man replied, "Seventy years."

Honi then asked the man, "And do you think you will live another seventy
years and eat the fruit of this tree?”

The man answered, "Perhaps not. However, when I was born into this world,I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”

"Well fine," said Honi, as he left. After walking for about an hour, Honi realized he was exhausted. He lay down for a nap on the dusty ground right next to a large rock. 

But his 'short nap' ended up lasting for 70 years! When he woke up, he was amazed to find himself beneath the towering branches of a fully grown carob tree. A middle-aged man was picking its fruit.  "Are you the man who planted this tree?" called Honi.

"No," he replied. "This tree was planted by my grandfather not long before he died, so that we today would have fruit and shade to enjoy."

Honi realized then that he must have slept for years and years. In his sleep, life had blossomed around him. And he finally came to understand how important it was to plant for the next generation.

Tu B'Shevat begins in the evening of Tuesday, February 7, 2012, and ends in the evening of Wednesday, February 8, 2012


  1. This reminds me of the Native American philosophy to care for the Earth while thinking of the next 7 generations. Loved this.

  2. I've often wished...that trees could talk. Buildings too.
    Have a great Tuesday m/f. (((hugs)))Pat