by Rachel Baron Singer
Thoughts of trees, fruit, and burgeoning greenery are generally sparse during Midwestern winters, but on the evening of February 3rd (the 15th of Shevat), I was fortunate to attend an event where all three were front and center. To celebrate the New Year of the Trees, members of AARC gathered at the beautiful home of Carole Caplan for a potluck dinner and Tu B’Shevat seder. Growing up, I’d always loved this little holiday where machberot [notebooks] were pushed aside for a day of planting seeds and eating dates at Hebrew school. So I was beyond thrilled to recapture a little bit of that magic as an adult.
Written and led by Ellen Dannin, the seder kicked off with an explanation of the four different types of trees found in the Torah, including the Torah itself—a tree of life! We then shared poems and passages about trees and nature, all of which were personally selected by the attendees. This gave the seder a lovely personal touch, and gave us all a chance to share how we each interpret nature.
Finally, we all had the opportunity to sample the various fruits the Kabbalists of 16th century Safed believed mirrored the order of the universe. These were broken into three groups: Fruits that need protection (nuts, pomegranates, coconuts), fruits with an inedible pit to protect their hearts (peaches, dates), and fruits that can be eaten whole (grapes, figs, blueberries). It was a wonderful way to pay homage to nature from a Jewish perspective, and to escape the ice and snow for an evening!