The IJC Community celebrated the New Year of Trees with a Tu b’Shevat seder that united the community with the Hebrew School children. Rabbi Ira led a slightly abbreviated Shabbat service so that everyone could join together at the end to discuss the meaning of this holiday.
Originally designed to mark the date for the tithing of fruit and the end of the fruit crop of the previous year, today Tu b’Shevat has taken on different meanings, including the revival and redemption of land, protection of the environment, and a promise of renewed life and the spring to come, even in the midst of winter.
Led by the Hebrew School students with the support of their teachers, we divided into groups and discussed the meanings and symbolism of the four different types of fruits and spices the parents brought to share with community.
The first group had fruits that were edible on the outside, but had a hard inner pit, such as dates, olives, cherries, peaches and avocados. We talked about people with personalities similar to these fruits; those who are soft on the outside, but have a tough interior. We decided that this could be a good or a bad thing – sometimes people need tough interiors to stand up for themselves, and other times a hard core can represent bitterness or anger.
The second group had fruits that were completely edible, such as figs, grapes, apples and berries. These fruits represent people who are good through and through ‐‐ do good deeds, study Torah, etc. Some of the children wondered if it would be better for our leaders to be like these types of fruit, or if some toughness was important to be successful.
The third group had fruits that were hard on the outside, but soft on the inside, like the famous Israeli “sabras” that are often used to describe Israelis themselves; prickly exteriors with hearts of gold.
And the fourth group smelled delicious spices such as nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. These, Rabbi Ira told us, remind us that there is more to life than just what we can see with our eyes.