Environmentalism plays a large role in modern Judaism. While it is a year round focus, one day of the year is devoted to trees and the environment- Tu B’Shevat. The name literally means fifteenth of Shevat, and falls at the full moon of Shevat. Falling in either January or February, it is one of several new year days on the Hebrew calendar. I wrote a post last year that gives a brief overview of the holiday, which you can read here. There are many different ways to mark Tu B’Shevat. Here are a few that vary in levels of observance and time.
Plant a tree. Tu B’Shevat is the new year of trees. In Israel the holiday is marked by planting trees. You can plant a tree yourself at home. If it’s not the appropriate climate to do so where you live, consider planting a tree indoors and transplanting it later. Alternatively, you can have a tree planted in Israel on your behalf. There are many organizations that do this. One such organization can be found here.
Plan Your Garden. Tu B’Shevat is a great time to plan your vegetable garden for the upcoming planting season. If you haven’t done so already, break out the seeds you saved from last year or the seed catalogs you order from and start planning!
Do something for the environment. Tu B’Shevat is like a Jewish Earth Day. Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Host a community educational event. Reduce your waste. There are numerous ways to celebrate Earth Day. Tu B’Shevat is another day to honor and remember our planet.
Host a Tu B’Shevat Seder. You are probably familiar with the Passover Seder (or if you aren’t Jewish you may have at least heard of it). Well, some people mark Tu B’Shevat with a seder as well. Seder simply means order and it refers to the order of the ritualized meal for the holiday. A Tu B’Shevat seder includes learning about the importance of the holiday and eating seven different species of fruits. You can find the order of a beautiful Tu B’Shevat Seder here.
Learn about Asherah. Back in the days when the Hebrews first entered Canaan, they came into contact with the Canaanite deities. Asherah was the mother Goddess, and she was represented by a tree. Many Israelites began to honor Asherah, and even planted trees in their sacred sites next to the representation of El. You can even find traces of Asherah in modern Judaism and Kabbalah with the Tree of Life and even with the Torah being referred to as a tree. You can read more about Asherah here. You can also read my poem about the current return of Asherah. It’s found here.
No matter what you do, you can find a way to commemorate Tu B’Shevat. What are your favorite ways to celebrate our mother Earth and take care of the environment? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what your traditions are.