I will tell you about trees.
I grew up in a forest. I lived amidst a countless number of trees until I moved to the Capital of the Netherlands, when I was already 20. I know what a tree looks like; and silence; and a dark night.
Reb Michel Nager told me why Jews have a special blessing for tree fruits. We could just make the blessing that we say on eating veggies and roots, but no – there is a specific one for tree fruits and nuts. Why?
Really, we could live without. Grains, legumes, vegetables and roots would give us all nutrition that we would ever need. That means that tree produce is an extra. It’s a cherry on top (pun intended). That means that tree fruits are a special treat. And extra generosity deserves extra gratefulness: an extraordinary benediction.
This Shabbat is the Lews’ yearly tree planting and appreciating festival: Tu B’shvat is HERE, Replanting the Fire Burned Trees – Israeli schoolchildren will leave their classrooms to plant trees … but this Tu biShvat, things will be very different because of the recent forest fires.
However, Ecologists advise Israelis to resist tree-planting after fires! Burnt forests and woodlands should be left alone to rejuvenate naturally, experts say. Orchards could be an exception to that, cultivated and unnatural monocultures as they are. You might never have guessed if you hadn’t listened to a specialist.
The custom to eat dried fruit, no doubt comes from fresh fruits being unavailable outside of Israel. In the Promised Land we eat fresh tree fruits more than usually. And not only from the Seven Species, including (red and white) juice from grapes and foods made with oil of olives. Some have a whole Seder for it – after the Kiddush and eating grain (cookies or bread) – because it does fall on Shabbat this year.
This Seventh Day will be: Shabbat B’shalach, Shabbat Shirah and Tu biShvat. In short: the Sea split, Moses and the Jewish People sang, Miriam and the women sang, Devorah sang. And it’s New Year for the Trees. What’s the connection? All the singing could make you nuts.
Shabbat B’shalach Shirah shalom, Happy Tu biShvat!