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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Tu B'Shvat: More Than Just ‘Jewish Earth Day’

By Judy Gruen

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What most didn't learn in Hebrew school


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Tu B'Shvat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, which is today) is known as the "birthday of the trees" to Jewish children around the world. It has become a little bit like Jewish Earth Day, with tree-planting as the main event.


Compared with other Jewish holidays, many of which commemorate freedom from oppression or a covenantal pact between the Jewish people and the Creator, Tu B'Shvat may seem a little, well, light.


But, in fact, Tu B'Shvat has a meaning deeper than the seeds that we may plant on that day. Looking inside the Torah, we find that there is a profound linkage between man and trees. Right in the beginning, in the first chapter of Genesis, we learn of the interconnectedness of man and nature:


"Now all the trees of the field were not yet on the earth and all the herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for G-d had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil. A mist ascended from the earth and watered the whole surface of the soil. And G-d formed the man of dust from the ground..." (Genesis 2: 5,6).


While G-d endowed human beings with primacy over nature, this passage shows there is a clear duality to the relationship. Rashi, perhaps the most famous of the Torah's commentators, notes that the first man, Adam, immediately recognized his spiritual responsibility to pray for rain, which was needed for trees and vegetation to spring forth. And, just as vegetation could not sprout without water, so, too, G-d seemed to water the earth from which Adam would emerge.


Still, man's dominion over the entire plant and animal world didn't mean that humankind was allowed to take this magnificent creation for granted. In the book of Deuteronomy, man and trees are compared again, this time in a very different context:


"When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to seize it, do not destroy its trees by swinging an ax against them, for from it you will eat, and you shall not cut it down; is the tree of the field a man that it should enter the siege before you?" (Deuteronomy 20:19)
Even in the midst of war, Jewish values come into play, prohibiting the senseless destruction of fruit-bearing trees. "A tree is not a soldier," Rashi noted. "Why should Jews feel the need to deprive anyone of the trees' fruit?" The Maharal of Prague adds a deeper meaning to the comparison. Just as trees must grow branches, twigs, flowers and fruit to fulfill their purpose, he explained, so too man was put on earth to be productive and labor to produce moral, intellectual, and spiritual truth. This is why the sages refer to the reward for good deeds as "fruit," because they are the true product of human growth.


Tu B'Shvat also celebrates the bond between the land of Israel and its people, although notably, the classical commentators never wrote that tree-planting was necessary on the holiday. Planting trees was, however, mandatory when making a physical connection to the land of Israel. A Midrash (Vayikrah Rabbah 25) states: "From the beginning of the creation of the world (G-d, so to speak) busied Himself with nothing but planting, as it says, 'And He planted a garden of Eden.' So too you when you enter the land, don't busy yourself with anything but planting at first."


When the modern state of Israel was established, Jews began to follow this advice with a passion. Only since Israel's independence has existed has Tu B'Shvat become synonymous with planting. It's possible that the consistent forestation of Israel, emphasized each year on Tu B'Shvat and year-round, has kept more of the land in Jewish hands during times of war. Consider: Areas surrounding Jerusalem and in the Galilee might have been settled by Arabs if they had been less heavily wooded. In this sense, the tremendous effort in tree planting throughout Israel may have done as much to "root" ourselves in the land as have the efforts of Zionist organizations.


In celebration of our connection, it is customary on Tu B'Shvat to eat fruit that grows in Israel, specifically, olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. It is also customary to eat a new fruit, which one hasn't eaten yet this year, in order to make the special shechechiyanu blessing on it.


Several hundred years ago, the great Kabbalists who lived in Tzefas (Safed) wrote a Tu B'Shvat haggadah, which is commonly used in Israel today for a "Tu B'Shvat seder," complete with four cups of wine, the fruits and grain products of Israel, and blessings over each fruit. The first cup of wine is white, symbolizing winter; red wine is added to subsequent cups of wine, symbolizing the inevitable arrival of spring and the renewal it brings in nature. These Tu B'Shvat "seders" are a cross-denominational phenomenon, with both secular and religious schools participating in them.


The great Maharal of Prague said that a man is like a tree of the field because just as the ground is all potential, so too is man is all potential. That's why the first man was named Adam, which is rooted in the word which means "earth" in Hebrew, adahma. Man's potential is actualized through his personal, intellectual, and spiritual growth. Paraphrasing the Maharal, the only difference between man and the trees is that the roots of the tree are in the ground, while the roots of the man are in the heavens.


Tu B'Shvat is a day when we remember the budding growth lying dormant in the winter earth, and celebrate spring's incipient arrival. We celebrate the Land of Israel, which the Torah has praised as "a land of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey" (Deutoronomy 8). We, who are compared to trees of the field, therefore rejoice on Tu B'Shvat, the day where the land of Israel renews its strength to give forth its riches. And may we grow like the trees, strong, rooted, reaching towards higher spiritual and intellectual growth. growth.

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JWR contributor Judy Gruen is the author, most recently, of "The Women's Daily Irony Supplement". Her work has appeared Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times and many other publications. To cooment, please click here.

© 2009, Judy Gruen