Find, Listen to, Hug and Bless a Champion Tree!

Written By: Clare Kinberg

American Sycamore –

For Tu b’Shvat this year (January 28, 2021), the AARC Beit Sefer invites the whole congregation to help us appreciate our amazing local trees.

Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, is on the full moon in the Hebrew month of Shvat. We celebrate the trees exactly 7 weeks after the first night of Hanukkah, when the celestial lights are dimmest. Seven weeks later, on Tu b’Shvat, the days have lengthened just enough for the tips of the trees to begin to send messages to their roots, “Begin to awaken….” It is cold outside, but the longer daylight tells the trees — and us — Spring is on its way.

Ann Arbor’s Champion Tree Program identifies and catalogs the largest tree of each species within the city. The program was created in 1995 to highlight and recognize these amazing trees and increase awareness and appreciation for outstanding trees that help make Ann Arbor “Tree Town.” There are currently 60 trees in the Champion Tree Registry. You can find them all listed on an interactive map, with information about each tree here. 

Our Tu b’Shvat plan is that during the week of January 23 through January 30, our member households will each pick one tree (or more if you are ambitious) from the registry, visit it, record in photos, drawings, or video what it looks like, and do the following:

1. Listen to the tree by putting your ear to the bark…can you hear the water beginning to rise?

2. Put your arms around the tree and give it a hug!

3. Bless the tree, as something beautiful, a natural wonder, and as something unique (3 blessings are below):

4. When you get home, write a few sentences describing your tree, and email them to Gillian, along with your photo or drawing, so we can share your experience in a future blog!

  • Blessing on Beauty

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olam shekahcha lo ba’olamo.

Blessed are you, our God, Ruler of the World, who has such as this in the world.

  • Blessing on Seeing Natural Wonders (from Ritualwell)


Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, oseh ma’aseh v’reshit.

You are blessed, our God, Ruler of the world, Source of creation.


B’rukha At Ya Eloheinu Ruah ha’olam, osah ma’aseh v’reshit. 

You are blessed, our God, Spirit of the world, Source of creation.

  • Blessing on seeing an unusual creature

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, m’shaneh habriyot.

Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the Universe, who makes creatures different.

Planning to Plant Trees

AARC Plans to Plant Trees to Celebrate Tu B’Shvat

It may be hard to imagine a bright sunny day in spring where AARC’s Beit Sefer students will frolic in a green meadow, picking out spots to plant new trees. But worry not! Under the guidance of Beit Sefer director, Clare Kinberg, students and their parents are making plans to do just that!

Entrance to our planting site, County Farm Park

Plans are in the works to plant fruit trees in County Farm Park’s Permaculture garden. Stay tuned for more info about our very exciting planting day!

Tu B’Shvat, or the New Year of the Trees, reminds us that in these dark days of winter, our trees are resting a slumber necessary to foster new growth. Tu B’Shvat is often celebrated as an ecological conservation day in which Jews around the world plant trees in honor of the holiday. We will remember this moment with gratitude in the spring when we are reveling in our advanced planning to enjoy this special tree planting activity.

An example of a Sugar Maple tree available through the Washtenaw Conservation District

Beit Sefer will be planting some fruit trees. If you are inspired by this and would like to order your own native trees or shrubs visit Washtenaw Conservation Districtto order for your home.