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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Tree hostility

By Rivy Poupko Kletenik





The auspicious history of the evolution of Tu B'Shevat


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Rivy:

Is it my imagination or has Tu B'Shevat taken on a significance beyond its original intent? When I was growing up we bought a few JNF trees — a quarter each; put the quarters in the cute little slots, ate some bokser and we were done. Now, suddenly, it's a big deal; it's not enough that we have a Passover seder — now we have a Tu B'Shevat seder — who makes this stuff up?

Am I detecting some tree hostility here? A bit of fruity discontent? A smidgen of forest frustration? Think, instead, of an enhanced holiday rather than a made-up celebration. You are right on both counts.

Yes, Tu B'Shevat has evolved in its meaning and yes, people do innovate some of these practices. But this might be seen as a good thing — you would not want to be the Grinch that Stole the Trees' New Year, would you?

The earliest mention of Tu B'Shevat is in the first Mishna of Tractate Rosh Hashanah. Here, the four New Years are outlined; the first is in the spring, on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan — the first of the months, right before Passover. The second New Year is the first of Elul marking the year for Biblically mandated tithes. The third is the first of Tishrei, the most well know New Year which brings us all to synagogue as we prepare to be judged. Finally, the fourth and final New Year is Tu B'Shevat, the 15th of the month of Shevat, which is the New Year for the tress.


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This of course does not mean that trees are out buying briskets and getting ready to hear the shofar, ram's horn. It means that on this date we begin to count the year in regard to trees' produce and the gifts that must be offered from them. More than anything, this day heralds spring! Trees are beginning to blossom and we are reminded to appreciate the Land of Israel and to praise its produce. We extend our appreciation of trees to notions of gratitude for gifts of a rich and ripe future and recognition of our own precarious place on this earth; hence, the evolving nature of the day and its commemoration.

Early Zionists naturally gravitated to Tu B'Shevat as an opportunity to celebrate the land and espouse its centrality in Jewish life. The planting of trees was central to their vision of a new Israel sprouting as result of their heroic efforts at reforesting the ancient homeland. Jewish National Fund adopted Tu B'Shevat as an annual fulcrum upon which they could leverage their campaign for forest funds. It worked. We all responded and still do to this annual ritual of supporting the replanting of the Holy Land and the more recent environmental and water issues essential to Israel's development.

Another enhancement to the original Mishnaic framework is the Tu B'Shevat seder. Confession: I did not learn of this other seder until I was grown. My first instinct was: What? Another Seder!? I quickly learned that this one involves less of the time and trauma than the better-known seder of matzoh and wine. Instead it celebrates the fruits of the land of Israel, symbols of seasons, and the telling of tree stories and praises. These practices are rooted largely in Sephardic and Hassidic traditions.

The origin of the Tu B'Shevat seder, however, is just recently being scrutinized. The latest take is that the originator of the Tu B'Shevat seder may have been a Sabbatean! That is, a follower of Shabbsai Tzvi, the false messiah of the 17th century. Nathan of Gaza is the supposed prophet of the infamous pretender. This dubious derivation casts aspersions on the Seder text.

However, rest assured these allegations are being quickly countered by claims of authenticity and proofs of more reputable Lurianic origins.

All this notwithstanding, I hold these truths to be self evident: Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, affords us the opportunity to draw meaningful understandings that can't but help us embrace lofty lives of appreciation. Consider these four values:

1. Trees teach us to plan for the future. Honi the Circle Drawer of Talmudic fame is the great hero of this lesson. Meeting a person planting a carob tree, he wonders aloud about their efforts. He reminds them that the carob tree is long to bear fruit and that he, the planter, will never profit from planting the tree. The wise cultivator responds, "as my ancestors planted for me; I will plant for my descendants." Trees teach us again and again this critical message — we remember it each year as we bite into the hard carob, bokser bark — Honi, think beyond yourself.

2. We were environmentalists from way back. The Book of Deuteronomy exhorts conquering Israelites to refrain from cutting down fruit-bearing trees. This concept of Baal Tashchis, not destroying, is expanded in later halachic literature to include other instances of waste and notions of preserving the earth's resources. The Midrash reminds us of the early command to human beings to work and to guard the Garden of Eden. When the Holy One created the first humans they were passed before all the trees of the Garden of Eden and G0d said to them: "Do you see My handiwork, how fine and excellent they are! All that I created was created for you. Be careful not to ruin and destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you."

3. Trees are symbols. They have captured our imaginations from generation to generation. Though not a Jewish source, the well-worn words of Joyce Kilmer tell the sweet tale: "I think that I shall never see/A poem as lovely as a tree./Poems are made by fools like me/but only G0d can make a tree."

Trees inspire us. They lift our eyes and fill us with wonder, grounded on earth they stretch heavenward. The Torah often implements trees to dramatize ideas. The Torah is a tree of life, a righteous person flourishes like a palm tree — and vineyard owners? They are like G0d, the true arborist of the world.

4. Tu B'Shevat is an opportunity to remind ourselves about the host of mitzvos -- religious duties -- connected to the Land of Israel. The Torah commands us to offer annual tithes from our crops, to leave the corner of the field to the poor, and to allow the gleanings of the field to remain behind for those unfortunate. We are expected to rest the land in the seventh year, Sabbath, for the earth; reminding us of our need to have faith in the One Above.

So here's hoping that you had a meaningful Tu B'Shevat and if not — start planning for next year!

JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

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JWR contributor Rivy Poupko Kletenik is an internationally renowned educator and Head of School at the Seattle Hebrew Academy.


Previously:


Mad Men Mussar

How to beat those down-home High Holiday blues






© 2011, Rivy Poupko Kletenik