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Jewish World, Jews and the World

Tu B’Shevat (Arbor Day): Carmel forest’s Israel

Tu B’Shevat (Tu Bishvat) is the 15th day of the Jewish months of Shevat. This festival is also known as the “New Year for Trees” and is observed in Jewish communities in countries such as Canada.

Tu B’Shevat is known as the “New Year for Trees”, is a Jewish festival that marks the start of a new cycle for the tithe on fruit trees.

Tu B’Shevat (Arbor Day) 2013
Saturday, January 26, 2013

Thursday, January 16, 2014

First, as to the word “Tu,” pronounced “too” in the name “Tu B’Shevat.” “Tu” is constructed from the Hebrew letters “tet” and “vav.” “Tet” is the ninth letter in the Hebrew alphabet; “vav” is the sixth. Nine + Six = Fifteen. Also, “tet” is a consonant, making the “te” sound; “vav” is a vowel, which when sounded with the “shoorook” vocalization, sounds like “oo.”

The Torah has compared Man to a tree of the field; hence this day also recalls the Divine judgment upon man. For such is the character of the people of Israel, that they rejoice on a day of judgment. Whatever the decision is, let all see that “there is a law and that there is a Judge.” The Torah is the law, and G-d is the Judge.

Tu B’Shevat (Arbor Day) 201What do people do?

Across the globe this month Jewish communities are celebrating the holiday of Tu B’Shevat. Many choose to commemorate the “New Year of The Trees” by planting pine trees in Israel. Tu B’Shevat is a day that deals directly with the social inequality of our food system. It’s a holiday that can inspire us to think about building community food security. Why not plant fruit trees right here in Canada, Israel or the community you live in  to grow more food?

On Jan. 18, for the first time since the fire, families will come to plant trees in the forest in advance of Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for trees at Carmel Forest Israel

Many Jewish communities in Canada observe Tu B’Shevat by eating fruit on this day. The Torah praises seven “fruits”, in particular grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Many Jewish people also try to eat a new fruit, which can be any seasonal fruit. Some Jewish communities plant trees on Tu B’Shevat. Some people organize ecological activities and educational events, which provides a chance to express their dedication to protect the earth.

Public life
Tu B’Shevat is not a public holiday in Canada. However, some Jewish organizations may be closed or offer a limited service to allow for festivities to occur on this day.

Tu B’Shevat is first referred to in the late Second Temple period (515 BCE to 20 CE) when it was the cut-off date for levying the tithe on the produce of fruit trees. When Jewish colonists returned to Palestine during the 1930s, they reclaimed the barren land by planting trees where they could. It became customary to plant a tree for every newborn child – a cedar for a boy and a cypress or pine for a girl.

In the Mishnah, where Tu B’Shevat is found, the purpose of the holiday is to make a single day in which our produce is taxed and given to the community. It’s based from a single line of Torah: “At the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall lay it up inside your gates; And the Levite, because he has no part nor inheritance with you, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are inside your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied.“ (Deuteronomy 14:28).

Tu B’Shevat is an opportunity to more closely examine hunger and how to respond most effectively to ensure that hungry people have access to nutritious, healthy foods. Netiya, a new city-wide network of faith-based institutions, is growing and tithing food to strengthen local food systems, and empowering ethical and informed food purchasing among our constituents. Through the seven gardens installed at Netiya member congregations, we are growing vegetables and fruits that are then tithed to food pantries. This is in accordance with the tradition of ma’aser, giving 10% of your harvest to the underserved in your community. In fact, however, we request that our members donate at least 90%, and most are doing so.

We challenge you to consider what it would look like for 10% of our city’s religious institutions to take ma’aser one step further and convert 10% of your unused institutional land (perhaps landscaped now with shrubs, annuals, or grass) into edible, productive crops to address hunger in our city. This wouldn’t require tearing up your parking lot to install a farm. Your institution could plant raised beds, or a vertical wall garden, fruit trees around your perimeter, window-box planters, or even a roof-top garden.

Here are suggestions for ways individuals and congregations can respond to hunger in Canada and Latin America
1. Reconsider food relief, move beyond donating the cans. Instead of cans, provide a monetary donation to an agency or non profit to purchase food in bulk. 

2. Ask, “What is needed most?” Call your local food pantry or Food non profit to ask what nutritious food items are needed prior to making a donation. Items such as beans, oatmeal and fish are more useful than the expired, dusty jar of odd sauce tucked in the back of your cabinet.

3. Donate fresh produce to a local pantry. Giving away food that you’ve grown calls upon a very different kind of Golden-Rule-giving. Not all places are this fortune, but we are fortunate to have an abundance of produce year-round in Canada. 

4. Raise money for a pantry to expand nutritious food offerings. This can enable the purchase of refrigeration to store fresh produce, the bulk order of vegetables from a local farm or perhaps the installation of a garden.

5. Glean from your yard or neighborhood. Volunteer with  to get fresh fruit donated to local pantries. Gleaning, one of four Jewish agrarian laws of giving, more commonly known today as food rescue, encourages the collection of produce from backyard gardens and local farms for donation to emergency food providers.

6. Donate your time. Cook and serve food at Project McGill University Guetto Shul , a local  student organization that prepares and delivers free, healthy meals to students.

7. Plant a tree at home. Build a garden at your religious institution with Netiya. Consider celebrating Tu B’Shevat by planting a fruit tree here at home. You can teach others to grow food to increase self-reliance. According to Maimonides, a great Jewish scholar and physician of the 12th century, giving your time and skills to help foster self-reliance for another person is the highest form of giving.


About Orekh Schriftsteller

Orekh Schriftsteller. It is the online pen-name of author and Managing Director of DM Enterprises.


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