Breaking away from the first year and particularly last year’s Tu B’Shevat event that featured yoga and decorating tote bags, Sixth & I’s third Tu B’Shevat seder, led by Rabbi David Shneyer from Am Kolel, was a far quieter, more traditional affair.
With a focus on biblical passages and folk songs with acoustic guitar accompaniment, we followed along in a seder booklet and meditated on tikkun olam and living in harmony with trees. The rabbi explained that as humans are judged on Yom Kippur, this arbor day/new year was a chance for trees to be appraised. We drank wine and ate fruit, taking joy in nature’s bounty.
A couple participants stood up at the end and explained the work they were doing in sustainable farming and etc. I particularly liked how Shneyer shared with us a melody he wrote for Etz kkhayim hi in the 1970s for a “Trees for Vietnam” event, where advocates got together to raise awareness for reforestation after the war. But undoubtedly my favorite moment, even if it has little to do directly with Tu B’Shevat, was when a young woman suggested that we sing a song for the late Debbie Friedman, the legendary songtress who transformed Jewish liturgy in the 20th century. We sang her version of Oseh Shalom.
For a proactive plan to plant trees in the Jewish homeland, check out the Jewish National Fund.