Tomorrow is Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, or their birthday. It is the day of the year when all trees, regardless of when they have been planted, turn another year older. The rabbis standardized this day in an effort to minimize complexities, since in the land of Israel, fruit can only be eaten from trees that are four or older (Leviticus 23-25). Tu B’Shevat, then, on a practical level, marks how old fruit bearing trees are.
The holiday has evolved since then. In the 16th century, Kabbalistic mystics developed a seder to celebrate the holiday, which involved eating certain fruits, drinking both red and white wine, saying blessings, and reading certain mystical texts. Each type of fruit one eats has a specific mystical meaning whether the fruit is completely edible (i.e. apple), has an inedible pit (i.e. olive), has an inedible shell (i.e. pistachio) or has a covering one generally wouldn’t eat, but could (i.e. orange). To this day, many congregations observe the holiday by hosting their own Tu B’Shevat seders often ripe with such kabbalistic overtones. Continue reading “When Every Day Will Be Tu B’Shevat by Ivy Helman.”
Almost every day, I walk in Central Park. There are certain trees there I’ve come to know: the gnarled cherry trees by the reservoir, the bending willows and tall bald cypress by the pond, the sycamores that drop their bark each summer, the hawthorn not far from Central Park West. Lately I’ve been taking photos of the trees to try to capture their essence, their posture in the world. The trees around me feel like friends, which is what an ancient midrash (interpretation/legend) called Genesis Rabbah says about trees: that they are friends to humankind. To me, they’ve always been a central manifestation of Mother Earth.
Currently, the national parks in the United States have no staff because of the government shutdown. Some people have taken the opportunity to cut down the rare and endangered Joshua trees in the Joshua Tree National Park—just for fun, I guess, or as a trophy of some kind. Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro of Brazil recently has indicted that he wants to remove protection for the rainforest, in order to allow development. It appears that my friends the trees have enemies. Sometimes the enmity is for personal/corporate gain, and sometimes the enmity seems to have no reason at all.
Continue reading “Tree of Life: The Festival of the Trees in an Age of Treefall by Jill Hammer”