Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tu B’Shvat

Dear Colleagues,

Tu B’Shvat has proved itself capable of changing its foliage over time in order to still be the vibrant and vigorous celebration we know today. Its origins lie in the times of the Mishnah, when the opinion of Beth Hillel was given priority, and the 15th of Shvat came to be considered the new year for the harvest. The festivity has undergone periods in which, considered a “minor celebration,” in Eastern Europe its celebration consisted of ingesting 15 different varieties of fruit and of reciting some Psalms. In the seventeenth century, under the influence of Tzfat Kabbalism, Tu B’Shvat was nourished by fresh sap: a seder is created in its honor based on the Pesach Seder; it also turned a new leaf with a book, which, while not bearing its name, bears its signature: Peri Ez Hadar. With the establishment of political Zionism in the nineteenth century, and in present-day Israel, Tu B’Shvat symbolizes rebirth and the redemption of the land as well as our indissoluble bond with it.

The language of 
Tu B’Shvat exhorts us, given that we have been responsible ever since the Creation itself for looking after what has been given us, to be conscientious of the importance of recognizing the life cycles and continuity reflected both in what we receive and in what we are capable of giving.
We are inhabited by a desire to ourselves be worthy of the Talmudic blessing “Would that the shoots sprouting from You be as good as You” 
(Talmud Babli, Ta’anit 5b), so as to perpetuate the sustained hope, as educators, of being able to transmit the fundamental responsibility each human is capable of in terms of listening, respecting, and loving nature, thus ensuring our “shoots” are impregnated that same spirit.

Chag Sameach!