By Rabbi Ellen Pildis, School Rabbi
Throughout the grades at Rashi, our students learn about their obligation to mend the world (tikkun olam). Each student at Rashi understands his/her obligations for tikkun olam. In second and sixth grades they specifically learn about being shomrei adamah – guardians of the earth itself. How we partner with God in caring for the earth is being a partner in creation.
Tu B’Shevat is a wonderful opportunity for Jewish families to celebrate nature and to begin thinking about spring. It is an invitation to think about the environment, and about our obligation to care for the physical world around us.
Considered the new year for trees, Tu B’Shevat is celebrated this year on February 8. On the Hebrew calendar, it is the 15th of the month Shevat. (“Tu” comes from the ninth and sixth letters of the Hebrew alphabet: tet and vav. Nine + six = fifteen.) According to the Torah, fruits cannot be consumed from trees less than three years old. Tu B’Shvat was used as the starting date for determining the age of the trees.
Today Tu B’Shevat is a significant way to celebrate our connection with the Land of Israel. We use this holiday to familiarize ourselves with the agricultural side of Israel. Israel is an important element of a Rashi education. We place a strong value on caring for the land, state and people of Israel. Tu B’Shevat is a time to specifically eat the foods of Israel. Are dates and pomegranites and olives a part of your daily diet? This is an opportunity to do some online research with your children about the produce of Israel. What is exported? What are the biblical foods that are still part of agriculture today? At school your children will plant parsley to be used for Pesach as well as eating a healthy fruit snack.
There are many wonderful ways to celebrate Tu B’Shevat with your families. They include everything from making fruit salad to planting trees in your gardens and in Israel. It is an opportunity to think about our Judaism and how it connects with nature, the environment and healthy fruit!