The Trees in Israel are Important to Us! – Tu B’Shevat at Beber Camp!
There is a midrash, (a rabbinic story) about an old man planting a fig tree. A young person stops him and asks, “Old man, why are you planting this tree? You will never live long enough to enjoy the fruits from this tree” The old man responded, “I plant this tree so that my children and all those who come after me will be able to enjoy its fruit. It’s my obligation to them, just as those who came before me planted trees from which I enjoyed.”
Tu B’Shevat, is often called the holiday/birthday/New Year of the trees. Its name is the date: In Hebrew, Tu represents 15 and Shevat is the month. This year, Tu B’Shevat begins at sundown on Wednesday, January 24 and ends at sundown the next day.
Tu B’Shevat is actually the first sign that Spring is on its way!! And, that means that summer is just around the corner, which means camp will be here before we know it!
Why would we need a day just for the trees?
In Biblical times, it was really important to have a cycle for the trees because they needed to keep track of how old trees were so they could determine when the fruit was ready to eat or to bring to the Temple. The original history and meaning of Tu B’Shevat is quite fascinating; you can learn more here.
In the 16th century
The kabbalists (mystics) of Tzfat (a holy city in Israel) found spiritual significance in the seeds and fruits of trees. They developed a Tu B’Shevat seder to help us tap into that spirituality. It became traditional to eat certain foods that are grown in Israel (e.g. almonds, olives, dates, figs, apricots, wheat, barley, and pomegranates). You can learn more about Tu B’Shevat seders here.
In Modern Israel
Tu B’Shevat became important for the development of Israel’s landscape. Zionist pioneers developed the tradition of planting trees on this holiday, which helped it become a lush, prosperous land where once it was mostly desert. It is still traditional on Tu B’Shevat to plant a tree in Israel. It’s also something Jews do all year long as a meaningful way to honor friends and relatives or to celebrate a milestone in someone’s life.
Finally, environmentalists have celebrated Tu B’Shevat as the Jewish “Earth Day,” a time for promoting learning about our responsibility to the earth we live on and must care for. The Talmud states, “Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” “all of Israel is responsible for each other,” which reminds us to look after each other now and for the future. And Tu B’Shevat is the perfect time to think about how important caring for our environment is so that we can leave the earth a better place for the next generation.
So, what can you do to honor Tu B’Shevat? You can…
- This year, more than ever before, Israel needs us to help the land continue to flourish. You can Plant a tree in Israel in honor of Tu B’Shevat or in honor or memory of someone you love.
- Have a Tu B’Shevat Seder with your family. It’s easy to do and this resource will help you plan it!
- Watch this very short video about Tu B’Shevat.
- Take this Tu B’Shevat quiz with your whole family. You’ll be surprised at how much you know!
- Give Tzedakah, contribute to any organization that works to help the environment.
- Take a nature walk and appreciate the environment around you. Spend some time among trees.
- Have your camper send us a drawing or picture of their favorite tree or outdoor space at camp. Tell us why it’s special. Maybe we’ll share that in a future publication or on our social media.
At Beber Camp, we know firsthand how important our environment is. We enjoy the beauty of our land and trees and lake every day during camp and we strive to take care of it, so that our current and future campers will always be able to enjoy it. Tu B’Shevat reminds us of just how important our environment, and in particular, our trees, are. Tu B’Shevat also reminds us that Spring is coming, and soon we will all be together amidst the trees at Beber Camp!