Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

By Laura Seymour
Dear Parents and Children,
Winter is always unique in Texas, and the wonderful weather we had before the ice, and will enjoy afterward, hopefully has given families a chance to be outside and experience the beauty and wonder of nature. It is a wonderful time to experience Tu B’Shevat — the Birthday of the Trees. Most of us have memories of collecting money to plant trees in Israel at this time of year, and we continue to plant, especially on this “birthday.”
There are so many wonderful ways of teaching our children to appreciate the wonder of nature and to learn that the Jewish people have been ecologists and environmentalists since biblical times — commanded by G-d to care for our earth: “… and G-d … placed humans in the Garden of Eden to work it and to protect it.” (Genesis 2:15) The term shomrei adamah means “guardians of the earth.” We must be the protectors of the earth now more than ever. An important Jewish value is bal tashchit, which means “do not waste/destroy.” Tu B’Shevat is a very special time to learn and remember how we can take care of our world!
Some special things to do for Tu B’Shevat
1. Save money to plant a tree in Israel. Contact Jewish National Fund.
2. Plant with your children: Parsley grows well indoors, so start now and you will be ready for Passover! You can also plant horseradish for Passover but it is a little tricky.
3. Start recycling — or if you already recycle paper, start recycling plastic. Keep adding to all that we can do. We can also challenge ourselves and our children to watch what we waste, and work on reusing.
4. Grownups, interested in the Jewish connection to the outdoors? Here are some great new books: “God in the Wilderness” by Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold; “Spirit in Nature” by Biers-Ariel, Newbrun and Smart; “A Wild Faith” by Rabbi Mike Comins.
5. Have a Tu B’Shevat seder! There are many new Tu B’Shevat haggadot but you can create your own. The 16th-century tradition includes the following:
•Four cups of wine: first, white wine for winter; second, pink (a little red mixed with a little white) for the first sprouts; third, light red as the first fruits ripen; fourth, all red when all is in full bloom and we give thanks.
•Four different fruits: first, fruits with outer shell that we cannot eat, but the inside is all delicious (almond); second, fruits with pits, eat all but inside (dates); third, entirely edible (fig); fourth, wheat, barley, rye, oats, grain — BREAD!
•With each, say a blessing, be sure to taste a new and different fruit for the Shehechiyanu, end with ha-motzi and enjoy a delicious meal together.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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