Carol Goodman Kaufman
Carol Goodman Kaufman chairs Hadassah's Youth Aliyah B'nai Mitzvah program

Honi the Circle Maker in Our Time

טו בשבט בשפיה🌺 הוא חג עם הרבה משמעות אנחנו מחוברים לטבע ולאדמה אנחנו מאמינים שחקלאות היא חלק בלתי נפרד מהעבר ומהעתיד שלנו. אז... חגגנו את ראש השנה לאילנות בכפר בדרך המסורתית עם שתילת שתילים, אכילת פירות יבשים ופעילויות בנושא.

Posted by ‎מאיר שפיה - בית ספר על אזורי‎ on Thursday, January 24, 2019
Harvesting the organic garden at Meir Shfeyah youth village. (Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America)

The story of Honi the Circle Maker came to mind recently when I was thinking about what to write for Tu B’Shevat. Because, of course, carob is one of the many fruits and nuts we consume on the holiday and Honi is famous for his relationship with the carob tree.

Just in case you haven’t read it recently, the story goes like this:

One day, Honi was journeying on the road and he saw a man planting a carob tree. He asked, “How long does it take for this tree to bear fruit?” The man replied, “Seventy years.” Honi persisted. “Are you certain that you will live another seventy years?” The man replied: “I found mature carob trees in the world that my ancestors planted for me. So I, too, plant them for my descendants.”

So the holiday made me think of carob, which made me think of Honi, and it was Honi who brought me around to Youth Aliyah, and how the students in Hadassah’s youth villages both preserve the past and ensure the future of our earth.

As is their tradition, our students plant trees, followed by a festive meal accompanied by, of course, lots of music. But in our villages, holiday celebrations go well beyond planting and parties. Environmental awareness and action are year-round activities in which students put into practice what they learn in their classes about making the environment better, from sustainable gardening to recycling. They learn about becoming Shomrei Adamah, guardians of the Earth. About fortifying the foundations for the future.

But on Tu B’Shevat, they take on a special glow. Activities at our Meir Shfeyah Youth Village include nature crafts and recycling workshops. One other unique activity is orienteering, the sport of navigation, often held in unfamiliar terrain using nothing but a map and compass.

At Hadassah Neurim, students work on the restoration of local nature as well as the rehabilitation of abandoned animals. On the holiday, students will go out into the fields to collect wild herbs from which to produce essential oils and other substances for both humans and animals. They will throw clay dug from the earth onto pottery wheels to make planters, and they will make flowerpots from recycled materials,

Celebrating nature and planting trees  at the tail end of winter is a symbol of renewal and hope. It is also investment in the future of our world.

Just as Honi the Circle Maker would have said.

All photos courtesy of Hadassah.

About the Author
After earning a Ph.D. in psychology, Carol Goodman Kaufman pursued post-doctoral work in criminology, during which time she wrote the book Sins of Omission: The Jewish Community's Reaction to Domestic Violence. A few years ago, she changed direction and began conducting research on food history, and now pens regular columns for both Jewish press and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette as well as freelance articles for regional and national publications. Her volunteer life spans four decades, and includes leadership positions with local, regional, and national organizations.
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