A story of ecology, Torah wisdom and Tu b’Shevat

If you want to tell a wonderful ecological ‘tree story’ to your children or students for Tu B’ Shevat (2/4/15) I offer you the following notes for a story my daughter Aviva (the organic farmer) told to her daughters and their classmates last year.

HOW DID TU B’SHVAT BEGIN? by Aviva Maller O’Neil

A little boy, lived in a house next to a groove of old oak trees. He liked wanderings out in the woods, climbing the trees, looking at flowers etc. one spring notices for the first time how many acorns each tree has. hundreds if not thousands. and tons of acorns on the ground , some are sprouting, little tender shoots reaching up in the air. boy thinks how if each one of those acorns grew to be a tree it would be so crowded, he would not be able to walk or even crawl through his beloved forest. He wonders what happens to all the acorns.

Then he happens upon a group of animals all gathered together, they are having a party. there is squirrels and chipmunks and mice they have a table set with many wonderful looking foods. they see him and say hello and invite him to their tu bishvat dinner it is acorn porridge and acorn pancakes and acorn pudding, etc; they are Jewish animals celebrating the holiday of the trees, giving thanks to the great old oaks that provide them with so much food for the entire year and help them make it through the winter which is the roughest. boy has fun at party glad to discover animals can be jewish,etc.

Over the next months watches to see how many acorns will grow into trees. under his favorite big ole grandpa oak tree he only notices one one seedling; he can’t imagine how so many acorns could produce only one seedling he feels sad for grandpa tree. one day falls asleep under the tree and dreams he can talk to the tree. He asks it if it is sad that after working hard all season to produce so many acorns only one seedling has survived

The gradpa tree smiles and says that that is the way of the natural world he is only one part of the system. He produces hundreds of acorns every year and feeds many many animals, which feed the coyotes and wolves; and luckily the squirrels are quite forgetful and often leave lots acorns buried in the ground to produce a nice planting of young seedlings.

But this year the rain didn’t come early and only one seedling survived. the grandpa tree sighs and says that all he hopes for is that each year just one tree will survive and grew into an adult, then he feels fullfilled; the boy wakes and is overjoyed by his dream. he feels happy for the gradpa tree, the seedling and for himself to understand the way of God’s natural world.

A few months later, he wakes to the sound of bulldozers. he dresses and goes out to see what the noise is about. he is dismayed to see bulldozers plowing down the woodlot next door.

Then he knows what to do. he grabs a shovel and a pot and runs to his favorite tree. he sees the bulldozers making their way towards him. he digs up the seedling oak with tears in his eyes gives a prayer to grandpa tree and all the trees and animals in his woodlot and returns home to plant his tree.

He had saved one seedling and the old grandpa oak would now live through that seedling. But the boy now realized how hard it is for a tree to grow in the wild, and how much trees provide for us and all of nature; and how with a little help from us it makes a big difference.

So now he plants a tree every year on Tu B’shvat. He knows that one day he will have replanted as many trees as once lived in the woodlot and have given as much life as the old grandpa tree would have liked to give.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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