Tu B’Shvat is known as the Jewish New Year of the trees. The holiday was originally connected to agricultural offerings brought to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, and this date determined when the crop year would begin and end. It was revitalized by the kabbalists of Tzfat in the 16th century, with the invention of the Tu B’Shvat seder, where we eat and bless symbolic foods and drink four cups of wine. The intention is to draw down divine shefa—abundance or spiritual sustenance—through the act of blessing and eating these foods. Tu B’Shvat was later revived again through the Zionist movement of the 19th and 20th centuries, connecting it to tree planting in the land of Israel. Today, Jewish environmentalists use Tu B’Shvat as a time to reflect on our connection to the earth and our obligations to protect it.
In that spirit, Hila Ratzabi, Director of Virtual Content & Programs for Ritualwell, shares a poem that you can bring to your Tu B’Shvat seder. It begins by literally inviting you to go outside and place your hands on the earth. You might want to try doing this as part of your Tu B’Shvat ritual – even if it’s cold in your region! The intention is to directly connect with the earth, with our hands, with our breath. We invite you to feel the divine presence in the earth itself, to make that connection, so we can nurture and protect the earth that gives us life, and also seek healing for ourselves and our society.
“How To Pray While The World Burns” was published in Hila’s 2022 poetry collection, There Are Still Woods, a radiant appraisal of life at the precipice of climate crisis and a haunting elegy for all we stand to lose. Through alternating lenses, from the speculative to the spiritual, from motherhood to science to mythology, Hila looks out at our wounded but vibrant planet and the animal experience of living on it.
6 p.m. CST Potluck Dinner
7 p.m. CST Shabbat Service at JRC
7:45 p.m. CST Poetry Reading