The Memory of a Tree

By Rachel Dubowe, Regional Jewish Educator

There’s a Jewish camp in Southern California that I love visiting because there’s this incredible piece of artwork on their main field that says  “The trees will remember your being here.” It stops me in my tracks every time as it’s pretty powerful to think about all the nature that has outlasted humankind as a whole. I know we’re all taught the importance of trees and our environment but how often do we stop and think about the memory of that tree or how long a tree has stood in that one spot?  One of my favorite hidden gems of Judaism is that there really is a blessing for everything. There is a
whole list of daily blessings specifically for wonders of nature, like rainbows, mountains, animals, and more. There is even a specific blessing we’re to say when we see the blossoming of fruit trees for the first time:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ שֶׁלֹּא חִיסֵּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם וּבָרָא בּוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת לְהִתְנָאוֹת בָּהֶן בְּנֵי אָדָם

Baruch ata Adonoi, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-lo chisar be-olamo klum v-vara
vo beriyyot tovot ve-ilanot tovim lehanot bahem bnai Adam.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who did not leave
anything lacking in Your universe, and created in it good creatures and good trees,
to give pleasure to humankind with them.

And not only do we have these blessings for nature, we also have Tu B’Shvat. Rosh Hashanah to Hanukkah always seems like a crazy marathon of sorts…and then we’re given the perfect opportunity to take a breath and enjoy the nature around us with Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat literally means the 15th of Shevat, which is from the evening of January 16th to sundown on January 17th this year. Tu B’Shvat is considered the beginning of the year for trees because it marks the start of blooming for many trees in Israel. There’s many different ways to celebrate Tu B’Shvat from getting outdoors to hosting a Tu B’Shvat seder! 

Seders are originally associated with Passover, but turns out Tu B’Shvat seders have been a thing since the Kabbalists of the 16th century. And thanks to these Kabbalists’ innovation, we now have an impressive array of Haggadot to choose from for our very own modern day Tu B’Shvat seders. We all know how overwhelming it is to Google something and get hundreds of results so we have prepared a list of some Haggadot that we love at Moishe House! 

  • Livnot U’Lehbinot has put together a very concise Haggadah that hits all the main points of a Tu B’Shvat seder. If you’re looking for something that has a nice mix of pluralistic ritual, history, explanation and an ecological approach as well, check it out!
  • RitualWell’s Haggadah offers the Tu B’Svhat seder from a Feminist perspective. This Haggadah focuses more on supplementary material that shines a light on our female biblical characters and provides a general overall feminist framing for a Tu B’Shvat seder.
  • Hazon has put together a Haggadah that offers many different resources, readings, prayers in Hebrew, and art work that all relates to nature and Tu B’Shvat traditions and rituals.
  • This Haggadah by Ellen Bernstein offers bits of poetry and creative writings to read throughout a traditional Tu B’Shvat seder.
  • Our very own Moishe House Denver created this awesome food justice focused Haggadah specifically for Zoom but could definitely be adapted in many different ways! This Haggadah focuses specifically on food apartheid and sustainable food systems as an indicator of both human and environmental longevity.
  • And last but certainly not least, a  classic go to in the world of online Jewish resources is Sefaria, and they do not disappoint with their long list of Haggadot!

I hope you have a wonderful Tu B’Shvat celebration and encourage you to really look at the trees around you next time you go outside and think to yourself–what will they remember about you? What will you remember about them?

Looking for additional funding to support your Tu B’Shvat programming? Residents can apply for a Tu B’Shvat chag grant up to $100. MHWOW Hosts can access their Holiday Budget.