Tu B’Shevat Salad
Value: Survival. Wheat represents a staple of life. It isbasic to breads, crackers and many other nourishing foods. Many of ustake the food on our table for granted, while others who are lessfortunate are not even guaranteed simple survival.
Text to recite: “Im ein kemah, ein Torah.“Literally, this verse means, “Without wheat flour, there is noTorah.” If you can’t nourish your body, you can’t nourish your soul;if you can’t feed yourself, you can’t find time to study.
Action: Estimate the cost of a week’s worth of food and give 10percent to Mazon — A Jewish Response to Hunger, a nationalorganization that gives money to local groups which feed the hungry.(310) 470-7769.
A Turkish custom related by Rabbi Hayyim Palache, who lived inIzmir in the 19th century, was to give 91 coins as tzedakah on TuB’Shevat, 91 being the gematria, or numerical equivalent, of theHebrew word “ilan” (tree). Give $91 to COEJL, the Coalition on theEnvironment and Jewish Life, 443 Park Ave. S., New York, NY10016-7322. (212) 684-6950.
Value: Appreciation. Barley is also a staple food, but its worthis of 10 unrecognized or undervalued. The omer offered betweenPassover and Shavuot was a measure of barley, according to rabbinictradition. While we remember the omer to this day by counting 49 daysbetween Passover and Shavuot, we’ve forgotten the barley.
Text to recite: “If a person consecrates any land to God, itsvalue will be assessed in these terms: 50 shekels of silver to ameasure of barley seed” (Leviticus 27:16).
Action: Take a moonlight walk around the block. Pay specialattention to the way the snow glistens, the trees whisper, the cloudsscuttle across the sky, the squirrels scamper across the grass.Collect anything you can find in a small basket — pine cones,seedlings, pebbles, twigs — and use as a table decoration.
Give a plant to someone who is not appreciated enough — a parent,teacher, friend, sibling, co-worker, spouse, even your gardener!
Gefen (Grapevine, or Grapes)
Value: Community. Like grapes that grow in clusters on a vine, we,too, forge and live in communities essential to our well-being.
Text to recite: “The world is a tree, and human beings are itsfruit” (Rabbi Solomon Ibn Gabirol, 11th-century Spain).
Action: Participate in a town beautification project or create oneof your own. Buy trees or plants, invite neighbors and create aceremony. Recite the blessing traditionally used on seeing trees inblossom: “Praised are You, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, who hasfashioned a world without deficiency, and has placed within itwonderful creatures and beautiful trees for the delight of humanbeings.”
Besides sending money for planting trees in Israel, buy Israeliproducts such as Carmel tomatoes, Jaffa oranges, jams, chocolates andwines.
Create a genizah, a symbol of community continuity. It is a customnot to discard sacred Hebrew texts — symbols of Jewish continuity –but to bury them in a genizah to accord them the same dignity ashuman beings. Give old Hebrew texts to your synagogue’s genizah, orbury them in your own yard so that they go back to the earth.
Value: Torah. The midrash teaches that the Torah is like a fig.Every fruit has some inedible part, but all parts of the fig are goodto eat.
Text to recite: Following the paths of Torah will hopefully leadto an era of peace, a time when “every person will call to hisneighbor from under his vine and fig tree” (Zechariah, 3:10).
Action: Study or read together the biblical story of creation.Study and discuss the following midrash about Adam and Eve: “The HolyOne took the first human and, passing before all the trees of theGarden of Eden, said: ‘See My works, how fine and excellent they are!All that I created, I created for you. Consider that, and do notcorrupt or desolate my world; for if you corrupt it, there will be noone to set it right after you” (Kohelet Rabbah).
Value: Mitzvot. If you count the seeds of the pomegranate, youwill find 613, more or less — the number of mitzvot in the Torah.
Text to recite: “May we be as full of mitzvot as the pomegranateis full of seeds.” This verse, recited during the traditionalSephardic “seder” on Rosh Hashanah, reflects the classic connectionbetween the pomegranate and mitzvot.
Action: Choose one mitzvah to follow for a week. One of the mostappropriate for Tu B’Shevat is bal tashhit, do not waste. Take smallportions of food. Conserve resources: Don’t waste water, paper,electricity, even money. Recycle.
Zeit Shemen (Olives)
Value: Hope. From the time of Noah and the flood, the olive branchhas been a sign of hope for an enduring future.
Text to recite: “God fed Israel honey from the crag and [olive]oil from the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:13). Olive trees growanywhere — even under the most adverse conditions. As olive treesstand firm in all kinds of terrain, so Israel will endure and remainstrong no matter what the circumstance. Sing the classic Tu B’Shevatsong, “Atzei zeitim omdim” (The olive trees are standing).
Action: If there is someone you’ve hurt, near or far, extend theolive branch. Send a jar of olives, a container of olive oil, or anyfood made with olives, along with a note of explanation.
Value: Concern for living things (tz’aar ba’alei hayyim). While,originally, d’vash referred to the honey-like date syrup, today,honey comes from the hard work of bees, the most humble of creatures.
Text to recite: Once, when Rav Abraham Kook was walking in thefields, lost deep in thought, the young student with himinadvertently plucked a leaf off a branch. Rav Kook was visiblyshaken by this act, and, turning to his companion, he said gently,”Believe me when I tell you I never simply pluck a leaf or a blade ofgrass or any living thing, unless I have to.” He explained further,”Every part of the vegetable world is singing a song and breathingforth a secret of the divine mystery of the Creation.” For the firsttime, the young student understood what it means to show compassionto all creatures (Wisdom of the Mystics).
Action: If you have a pet, feed it before you eat. Make sure thatits water dish is filled and clean. Volunteer at a local animalshelter. Try not to buy products that are animal-tested or thatexploit endangered species.
To conclude the seder, recite the following verse: “L’Adonaiha’aretz u-m’lo’ah” (Psalms 24:1). The Earth and all its fullnessbelong to God. We are the caretakers of the Earth, and it is up to usto protect and preserve its beauty. Happy Tu B’Shevat!
Fruits, nuts and grains mentioned in the Bible offer a tastyand colorful way to honor the earth on Tu B’Shevat.
Bay-Laurel by Art Curtis
Tu B’Shevat Salad
1 orange, peeled,
cut into round slices
1 avocado, sliced
1 apple, peeled and diced
2 pitted dates, diced
Seeds of 1/4 pomegranate or
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup roasted pecans
1/2 head of romaine lettuce
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
Combine everything into a salad bowl. Toss and serve. Serves six.
Biblical Yogurt Dip
1 cup yogurt
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 cup fresh mint
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Add salt to taste.Makes one cup.
Recipes from “The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen” by JoanNathan (Schocken Books; $18.00)
Rahel Musleah and Rabbi Michael Klayman are the co-authors of”Sharing Blessings: Children’s Stories for Exploring the Spirit ofthe Jewish Holidays” (Jewish Lights).
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