In celebration of Tu B’shevat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, I am sharing one of my favorite poems. To learn more about this holiday, which has become increasingly focused on environmentalism, visit: http://www.reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/tu-bishvat and, for more on Tu B’shevat, including three wonderful Haggadot, visit: http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=f7d47da986d48ddb1933530b5&id=05dc156ccf&e=fb961bcb30
“What Is It Like Being A Tree?
Once I asked a tree: “Tree, what is it like being a tree?”
“You’re joking right?!”declared the tree.
“No, absolutely not,” said I.
“Seriously, is it good or bad?”
“Bad?!” exclaimed the tree in amazement. “Why?”
“Don’t you care that you are stuck in [the ground] throughout the week?”
“I am not stuck.
“ Look, I’m planted.”
“And don’t you have the urge, sometimes,
to walk around to visit your friends,
or to see what’s going on in other places?”
“I don’t have any need to wander about or to move.
Birds sing to me regularly,
butterflies kiss me,
the wind caresses me,
the entire horizon spreads its expanse before me.”
“And in the evening, what happens when everyone is sleeping?”
“In the evening, I listen to the silence
how humanity breathes,
how fruit ripens,
how the dew falls,
and young birds nestling within the sleeping branches
and I watch over their sleep.”
“I love you, tree,” I said.
And I went to my garden
and I planted a tree
opposite my window.”
-Ditya Ben-Dor (translated by Nina J. Mizrahi)
- Explore the parts of a tree (roots, trunk, branches, leaves, etc.) as a metaphor.
- What is the difference between feeling stuck and feeling rooted?
- What does the tree find meaningful in its life?
- What are we taught by our parents, friends & society about what is supposed to be meaningful in our lives?
- Why is the Torah called a “Tree of Life?”
- The tree inspires the boy. What inspires you?
- Take a winter walk in the woods. Notice this light shining through in the absence of leaves. Take a “tree bath” in the winter light.
- Take another walk, where you notice the state of nature during this season. If possible, you can still “harvest” pinecones and dry pods, seeds, flowers and grasses that you find interesting. Place them in a bowl or vase to enjoy. My bowls contains all kinds of pinecones, dried leaves, pods, thistle, gourds and even etrogs from Sukkot. I keep a large magnifying glass in the bowl so visitors, especially children, can look at everything more closely. It is fun to open dried pods and look at the seeds they contain, as well as marvel at their structure.
- Take a “vacation” in the local botanical garden’s greenhouse where the tropical plants and trees grow. Enjoy the warmth and humidity.
- Roots cuttings from your plants or from other people’s plants. Share with others.
- Make pinecones birdfeeders by putting peanut butter on them and hanging them outside on a tree.
- Look at photographs of almond blossoms blooming in Israel. There they announce the arrival of early spring.
Try fruits you have never tasted before.
- Go to the library and enjoy books with photos of nature.
- Consider a next step you can take toward more sustainable consumption and living.
- Plant parsley so it will be ready in time for Passover!
- SHARE YOUR IDEAS ON MY BLOG PAGE: wordpress.com
Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi
Tu B’shevat 5777