Tu B’shvat or the “birthday” of the trees was celebrated in school on January 30th and 31st. In ancient times, Tu B’shvat was a date on the calendar that helped Jewish farmers establish exactly when they should bring their fourth-year produce of fruit from recently planted trees to the Temple as first-fruit offerings. In the 16th century, the Kabbalists (mystics) of Tzfat in Israel created a new ritual to celebrate Tu B’shvat called Seder Tu B’shvat. Our 4th graders and their parents participated in a Tu B’shvat Seder. The students performed a Tu B’shvat skit and sang songs related to the holiday. They read Rabbinic literature, recited the blessings, and learned about the significant of each fruit and its connection to the land of Israel. Students and their parents drank four cups of wine: white wine (to symbolize winter), white with some red (to symbolize spring); red with some white (to symbolize fall) and finally all red (summer). They all enjoyed learning about this fantastic Kabbalistic tradition and celebrating the holiday together.
The early Zionists held Tu B’shvat as an opportunity to celebrate their tree-planting efforts to restore the ecology of ancient Israel and as a symbol of renewed growth and flowering of the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland. In modern times, Tu B’shvat continues to be an opportunity for planting trees — in Israel and elsewhere, wherever Jews live. For environmentalists, Tu B’shvat is an ancient and authentic Jewish connection to contemporary ecological issues. In Judaic Studies classes, we educated our students about their responsibility of G-d’s creation and to take care of the world. All classes participated in planting and gardening activity in our own Levana’s garden. Students planted trees, took care of the garden, tasted fruits associated with the land of Israel, and planted parsley that they’ll harvest for Passover.