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Passover – Crafted for Curious Minds

March 18th, 2019

photoEvery year we come together to tell the story, to taste our salty and bitter history, to crunch on matzah and to uplift with the season cycle of spring.

How do we keep it interesting?  How can the seder itself not only be a ritual of the senses but also an annual pilgrimage of discovery?

For the last two years, creator of My Haggadah: Made it Myself and DIY expert, Francine Hermelin Levite and I have been designing Passover preparation experiences for families with young children. Last year we explored the relevance of our exodus narrative. We considered all forms of going from stuck (Mitzrayim, hebrew for “Egypt” means “narrow place”)  to unstuck - freedom!

This year we have put together a model seder, crafted for curious minds. Highlighting this holiday’s magic number FOUR, we’ll set four tables of curiosity.  MJH_Passover_Flyer_March 2015

Table 1 – Explore feelings: make salted water, taste fresh horseradish root, visit stories like Double Dip Feelings and  Where the Wild Things Are

Table 2 – Explore brawn: mash dates to make charoset, build with date paste and matza

Table 3 – Explore chametz vs matzah: what is necessary, what is extra?

Table 4 – Explore freedom, self-love, tikkun olam: what to do with today’s freedoms?

As we build our symbolic seder plate, we will make our way from beginning to end of the seder experience, complete with live music,  creative play and of course the classic four questions.  Each step along the way, another opportunity to ask a new question.

Francine shares some of the ideas behind My Haggadah and Made It Myself Books.

“I began my project of crafting seder over a decade ago as a new parent, wanting to connect my food-allergic son to a seemingly food-centric ritual. Jewish customs thrive on food to create gateways to memory and collective story-telling. Through our work together, Shira and I have designed so many ways to actively spark questions at the table–not just because the Haggadah says to, but inspired by it. Through creating table props and multi sensory activities, we facilitate families’ abilities to unlock the essence of Passover’s themes with a night that is truly different.

In the spirit of Seder, the ultimate at-home DIY ritual, and this the Shmita year, you can now download your own copy of My Haggadah: Made it Myself. Everything is included to print just the pages you need, print the entire book double-sided and even print the actual stickers.”
Share with us how you explore Passover in your home each year.

Passover Foods – The Way To My Heart

March 1st, 2019

PesachBonBons.gifAll my life I’ve heard people say, “I hate Passover, you can’t eat ANYthing!” And I’ve always shaken my head and said, “You need to come over to my house.” Passover is straight up my favorite holiday because the food is SO GOOD! A large part of my Jewish identity was clearly formed by the gustatory traditions for each and every holiday of the year. My mom went to town creating our family’s food rituals mixing her Hungarian roots with a heavy handed cup of her love for Sephardic food. She also had the task of cooking almost entirely meatless menus for my vegetarian family.

To this day, every holiday throughout the year has a specific set of dinner entrees, side dishes, noshes, and desserts. But none more than Pesach! It’s always been a goal of my mom to make the holidays extra special by creating a wonderland of delicious and memorable foods. During Pesach she keeps the cupboards stocked with Pesadig candies and chocolate from Israel. As a child, when there was a birthday party to attend during the holiday, she sent us along with our own amazing treats. This also really helped to curb the difficulty of going through the American Easter holiday season with all the Easter baskets piled high with (non-Pesadig) chocolate.

Let’s see, a typical Passover day’s meals might include:

The Grown-up Breakfast. This is broken up matzah in a bowl with coffee and warmed milk and sugar carefully poured over it. A Hungarian tradition. My brother, sister and I still cannot understand why any grown-up would choose this over the best pancakes every invented.

The Kids Breakfast. Matzah meal and egg white pancakes, each one a puff of love served with pure maple syrup – special for Passover.

Matzah Brie. Now every family has a different recipe, my mom’s is a loose scramble of sliced carmelized onions, whipped eggs, salt and pepper, and quickly soaked matzah broken up into large pieces so it stays crunchy.
Moroccon Omelet. Diced potatoes, carrots, parsley and garlic baked into an egg omelet spiced with tumeric, salt and pepper.
Lotsa Matzah! with a spread of cheeses and salads. Steamed artichokes left over from the artichoke petals served at seder with my mom’s home made mayonnaise – special for Pesach. My mom usually ate cottage cheese toped with diced fresh carrots, scallions, tomatoes and cucumbers so she could splurge on one whole matzah liberally spread with sweet butter and sprinkled with kosher salt. I can still picture her face as she prepared this exceptional treat for herself.

Oh yes, and the U-Bets chocolate milk! Growing up, chocolate milk was a special treat reserved only for Shabbat (no wonder I love Shabbat so much) and on Pesach we always had the jar of U-Bets Chocolate Syrup which lasted far longer than the holiday but just was not as interesting or appealing after those eight days. Special for Pesach: Brown Cows, a yummy drink of chocolate milk mixed with soda water.

Frequent refrigerator raids for matzah brickle (see below), chocolate covered strawberries or whatever other left overs we could slice off or dig into.
Compote. A sweet dish of cooked dried fruits in their own thick syrup. One time she poured chocolate into paper muffin cups, creating chocolate shells and served the compote in those! I’m telling you, my mom holds nothing back when it comes to holiday food prep!
More Matzah! with anything you can imagine on top, especially leftover charoset from the seder.

Matzah Ball Soup.
Now my mom always makes two kinds of matzah balls. One for my dad, the traditional heavy German “cannon ball” matzah balls, a recipe passed down from his great-grandmother. And the 2nd kind is a lighter mixture based on a Hungarian recipe mixed with chopped almonds, parsley, fresh ginger and soda water. Also, because of the vegetarians at the table, French onion soup (no cheese) replaces the more traditional chicken soup.
Kubeh (KU-beh)! This one we would fight over. One of the few exceptions of meat in the house, this is a Sephardic treat of thick breaded (matzah mealed) dumpling stuffed with spiced ground lamb and fried.
Edam Cheese and Spinach Souffle, my sister’s and my favorite.

The Brickle. Quite possibly every chocolate lover’s fantasy, the brickle is a delectable sheet of broken up matzah, topped with toasted almonds, topped with home-made caramel, and topped off with a swirl of milk and dark chocolates.
The Seven Layered Matzah Cake. 7 matzot soaked in wine and layered with a sauce of chocolate combined with rasberry jam, egg, butter, and brandy. One year, I completely O.D.’d on this cake and haven’t really been able to eat it since.
Fresh Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate
Coffee Flavored Meringues
(most of these can be made non-dairy to go with the seder meal of lamb.)
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Pecan Bonbons. These may be a little over the top, but what else is a holiday for? They are pecan halves filled with butter cream laced with brandy, topped with a pistachio, and then dipped in chocolate.

Door’s always open, come on over!

Four New Questions – The Passover Challenge

March 1st, 2019

Every year, our children learn to sing the “Four Questions”. The Haggadah is actually filled with questions for the young and old alike. Let this holiday dinner (seder) be the opportunity to let all question run free. Sometimes it’s hard to address children’s questions on abstract topics and the harder parts of our history. This is the Passover challenge.

Four New Questions

When you’re discussing these questions, whether just with your children or with many generations and voices at the seder table, be sure to share your voice as well. The Four New Questions speak to the whole human story, adults and children alike. And then, please share your voice with us. We look forward to hearing about the new insights this discussion brings to your Passover experience.

1. What does it mean to be free?

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim.” In English, it means “narrow place.” What are the narrow places in your life? How do you know when it’s time to get out?
Do you think this has anything to do with the spring cleaning that many families do in preparation for Passover? Or the new spring season that bursts out of a long winter?

For young children, the concept of “free” may mostly be related to free time and free play (when they can choose whatever activity they like as opposed to structured classroom time). You can continue the discussion by asking how those times feel different from the rest of day? Can you imagine, if you never had free play?

Older children are ready to talk about America: The Land of the Free. What kinds of things make us “free”? Free to be you and me! This is a great time to talk about tolerance and justice. Are there still slaves in the world today?

How would your life be different if you weren’t free?

Our ancestors were heading to Israel, the land of milk and honey. What does freedom taste like to you?

Every year we read in the Haggadah that every one of us should think of ourselves as having left Egypt. Why is it so important to remember harder times?

2. Would you have left Egypt?

Did you know that four-fifths of the the Israelite slaves stayed in Egypt? (At least according to Rashi.) Now why in the world would they do that?

Would you have left Egypt (the known/familiar) and taken a risk?

Narrow places are sometimes the most comfortable! How can you tell if something so familiar isn’t actually good for you? Examples?

What kinds of risks do we take every day?
Why is it so hard to try something new?

For the youngest children:
What would have you take with you for comfort?
What would you miss the most?
What are you looking forward to?

How would your life be different if you stayed in Egypt?

3. Have you ever taken a leap of faith?

Not long after the Israelites finally left Egypt, the Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army to chase them down. But that was only the beginning of this new drama. They had just reached the Sea of Reeds! How were they to cross? What would happen to them? With the Egyptian army rushing up from behind and the great Sea of Reeds spread out before them, what were they to do?

What would you do?

Here’s one legend from the Babylonian Talmud:

“When the Israelites stood by the Sea of Reeds, each tribe was unwilling to be the first to enter the sea. Then sprang forward Nachshon the son of Aminadav from the tribe of Judah and descended first into the sea… the sea saw Nachshon and fled.”

The story goes, that Nachshon, impatient and perhaps without faith in Moses, stepped into the water. Trusting that God would help them, he walked right in to the depths until it reached his chin. Then he started to pray. Words that we use in every service “Mi Kamocha ba’Elim Adonai…!” Who is like you, making wonderous miracles (now would be a good time for one. Right now!!!)… and when the water filled his mouth and he could only gargle out the prayer, then THE SEA PARTED!

A beautiful story of faith, trust, and courage.

What or who do you think gave Nachshon that courage?
For what kinds of things do we need courage? Can you think of some examples of when you were the first person to try something new?

Describe a time when you had to do something you were scared to do, but you did it anyway.

Who are the modern day heroes and heroines that have leapt headfirst and changed the world?

4. Have you ever seen a miracle?

The Sea of Reeds parting is considered to be a magnificent miracle. One of our best! Do you believe in miracles?

A story from Exodus Rabbah:

There were maybe a million people crossing the Sea of Reeds that day. It took all night long. Two people, Reuven and Shimon were deep in the crowds moving across the land. Where the waters had parted, the earth was wet and soft. Reuven and Shimon took one look at the ground and said, “YUCK! It’s all muddy here! My sandals are getting dirty! Back in Egypt we had mud and bricks. Here it’s just mud and water. And it’s even worse! This is the wettest mud I’ve ever seen in my whole life! This is worse than Egypt!” Reuven and Shimon did not look up to witness the miracle.

What does it take for us to see a miracle?

What miracles, little and big, can we see every day if we are paying attention?

A Parent’s Passover Preparation

March 1st, 2019

A note from my Mom, Barbara Kline

Preparing for Pesach begins my spiritual journey for this holiday of freedom and renewal. That means cleaning up a storm. Articles such as “25 Ways to a Quick Passover Changeover” from Jewish Living published eons ago, rev me up for the task. As I clean each room from top to bottom, re-arrange shelves of books and photos, separate out the chametz from my pantry, and change my dishes and cookware, I feel a sense of freedom from clutter, material and spiritual. Boxes of chametz sit on the pantry floor waiting to be consumed before the holiday. By the time my kitchen is ready for preparing Pesadig goodies (I always start with the charoset), my multiple lists taped to the cabinet doors checked off as I complete each task, (And I never take these listst down until right before Seder when all that’s left is one sheet with the menu and another with the timed schedule for getting everything on the table. Even so, two years in a row I left the matzah out of the matzah kugel!) I know I’m ready to welcome everyone to the table, feeling renewed and grateful that we made it to another Seder. I sit back and enjoy the tumult of the evening, our table crowded with family and friends, and laden with food lovingly prepared by my children and me.

I try to prepare as much of the food as possible before the family arrives to join in. That includes the charoset, soup, matzah balls, artichokes, eggs, and compote. Once we’re together, everyone has a task. We all dice the veggies for the Israeli salad Shira always make the meringues and chocolate cake. Aliza and Shira and I’m sure this year Aliza’s three and a half year old daughter Ela will dip whatever needs dipping into chocolate. The girls assign Avi and Bradley jobs in all areas including running to the store for a last-minute, forgotten ingredient.

Setting the table has its own ritual. Kiddish cups determine where we sit and every year we play musical Kiddush cups as we change our minds as to who will sit next to whom. Fresh herbs adorn each napkin and pots of herbs decorate the table. Lots of laughter accompanies all.

The entire week is imbued with the special flavors of Pesach. We hate to see it end.

Havdalah – San Francisco, CA

February 18th, 2019

Jewish Funder’s Network Havdalah, hosted by OneTable and Birthright Israel (Private Event)

Travis The Tree – A Tu B’Shvat Story

January 21st, 2016

Travis the Tree

By Rabbi Molly G. Kane
More from Rabbi Molly 


“Travis the Tree,” as he was known around Prospect Park, knew the holiday of Tu B’Shevat was coming up, but he didn’t quite know what to expect. He heard some rumors that it was a holiday all about his people…the Trees. He knew there would be a lot of talk about who the trees were and how humans can treat trees better. But what he didn’t know was how the holiday was actually celebrated. Since Travis lived in the park he often saw celebrations. He saw streamers and balloons, picnic baskets filled to the brim, and he saw cake. If only he could eat cake…that yummy looking pastel colored frosting. It seemed to make everyone who ate it so happy. Not that Travis wasn’t happy. He was. And he loved filling himself up with sunshine and rain.  Although, the winter was a tough time for him. It was cold and there wasn’t a lot of sun. Freezing rain and snow didn’t taste as good as the sweet rain of spring and summer. And in the winter he felt so naked! Without any leaves to cover himself up made him feel so vulnerable! And as he was having this thought he realized something HUGE. He was going to be naked for Tu B’shevat! His own holiday and he would be naked! Who celebrates anything naked?! Travis couldn’t understand. Why on earth would there be holiday for trees during the coldest time of the year? During the worst time of the year for trees, when branches are stricken with frostbite and sometimes even brake! Travis was beside himself.

In his despair, he turned to his neighbors and friends…the trees next to him. He told them how unfair he thought it was that Tu B’Shevat was in January. And shouldn’t they protest? Shouldn’t they tell the humans who celebrated them that they should wait and do it in the spring or summer when everything was in bloom?

While Travis chatted up his friends, a wise old brown mouse name Elie was listening to their entire conversation. Elie knew every tree in the park. She knew Travis very well even though Travis didn’t know her. She knew this was the first year that Travis was old enough to understand the meaning of Tu B’Shevat. As Elie was thinking about Travis, all of a sudden she heard Travis say, “Well, then forget Tu B’Shevat!” Elie knew she had to intervene. She crawled onto one of Travis’s roots that was above ground and started gnawing at him with her teeth. No response. So she called out to some of her friends. A few more mice showed up and a squirrel.  They all started chomping on Travis. Still no response. Finally a dog ran by and saw all the critters and started howling. Travis looked down and he started to shake his branches and said, “Hey, hey! Whatcha doin down there?!” Elie quickly crawled up the trunk of Travis’s tree and said,

“I overheard you say, ‘forget Tu B’shevat’ and then that made me think that I could just start to eat up your roots.”

“What?” Travis said in a confused voice.

And then Elie explained that Tu B’Shevat is not about having beautiful green leaves to show off to the whole world. It’s about having strong roots. It’s about being planted into the earth. At first Travis, didn’t fully understand, but as Elie kept talking and telling him stories of the trees in the Land of Israel and how at this time of the year they start to show new buds and also about how when you plant things in the ground now in the winter, they bloom in the spring. And then of course she reminded him: in winter time, tree’s roots grow the most. That’s when Travis finally got it. Tu B’Shevat was now, because it’s a time of sprouting and expanding. And birthdays are all about celebrating growth! It’s also a time of planting for the future and celebrating the ability to grow things. Travis thought about how he used to be a sapling and now he has grown and the cycle of the seasons allow him to get bigger and stronger every year. This felt miraculous to Travis and totally worth celebrating. Travis, looked at Elie and said, “I just have one more question.”

Elie said, “Sure, what is it?”

And Travis said, “Now that I understand Tu B’Shevat, can I have a piece of cake?”


The End



Create Your Own Tu B’Shvat Seder

January 1st, 2016

Tu Bshvat SederIf you’ve never participated in a seder for Tu B’Shvat, you’re missing out! I want to give you the tools to host your own this year. Modeled after the Passover seder, it can be a very beautiful experience full of delicious fruits and nuts, great discussion, music, and a chance to explore your spiritual connections to the rest of creation.


The preparation itself is a wonderful way to get in touch. So while you choose the fruits, wash and divide them up, be sure to pay close attention to the feel, smell, sight, and taste of each one.

Each place setting should include a plate, fork or toothpicks for tasting, 2 wine cups, napkin, and a small flower pot or paper cup for planting. This is a great time to decorate your table with fresh flowers.

THE SEDER PLATESclick here for Tu b’Shvat Seder coloring page

Every seder will lead to a unique discussion about the symbolic explanations for these fruits. Go to town with it, there are infinite ways to look at it.

Choose five from each of the different lists:

1st Plate. Fruits with an inedible shell. The shell conceals what is inside and also protects it. These fruits remind us of our own personalities, often hardened on the outside. It also reminds us of our connection and reliance on a world enveloped by materialism.
Tangerine Grapefruit Kiwi
Walnut Pomegranate Pistachio
Coconut Peanut Almond Orange

2nd Plate. Fruits with an inedible pit or seed. Deep inside us is where we find our truest self, this is about getting in touch with and honoring the still small voice inside us.
Peach Avocado Olive
Apricot Plum Date Cherry

3rd Plate. Fruits which are edible inside and out. Is it possible to be at one with ourselves and with the world around us at the same time? Celebrate a way of living with no barriers, no holding back, and fully living an awesome life.
Grape Fig Apple Strawberry Raisin Cranberry Pear Carob

Invite children to make tu b'shvat seder plate.jpg


Invite your students to design their own seder plates! Delicious instillation art!



4th Plate. Instead of fruit, the 4th plate contains different seed packets for planting. We take action to make the world a better place. Think about how seeds hold the potential for new life, rebirth, hope, and change.
Herbs (Parsley is a fun choice in preparation for Passover a few months away)
Vegetables, Flowers and Be sure to have a pitcher of water nearby so that you can water your seeds after planting.

click here for Shivat haMinim coloring page


Here are my four favorite questions that draw the connection between people and nature. Look how much we can learn about ourselves through an exploration of fruit!  Feel free to make up your own questions.

First I like to ask:  How many colors do you see around the table?  Take a long look and really count.
Then I like to ask: Can you tell what makes each of the three fruit plates special and distinct?

1.  Let’s look at the plate filled with oranges, bananas, nuts… What makes this plate special? These are fruits with a hard shell which we cannot eat and a soft inside which we can eat.  What does this hard outer shell do for the fruit? What does it mean to be hard on the outside and soft on the inside? Do you know anyone who fits this description? Do you fit this description? Do you have a hard outer shell?  Are there particular times when you have a hard outer shell or thick skin?

2.  Let’s look at the plate filled with stone fruits, dates, olives… What makes this plate special? These are fruits with a soft and delicious outside and a very, very hard pit on the inside. What does that pit do for the fruit? Might we have a pit, or something like it, inside us? What could that be? How is it both a source of life and an impenetrable inner pit? What does it mean to be soft on the outside and hard on the inside? Do you know anyone who fits this description? Do you fit this description? Are there particular times when this is the case?

3.  Let’s look at the plate filled with figs, berries, grapes…What makes this plate special? These fruits are edible both on the outside and the inside.  What does it mean to be accessible on the outside and the inside at the same time? Do you know anyone who fits this description? Do you fit this description? Maybe we are like each of these plates of fruit at different times.  Does one plate represent you more than another?
Did you know you had so much in common with fruit?

4.  The fourth plate is in our hands.  Why is it so important for us to plant seeds?  How can we people partner with the natural cycles of creation?  What other kinds of seeds do you plant every day? What are your Tu B’Shvat New Year’s resolutions?  If you cannot plant seeds at this Seder, consider doing an art project that uses hand or finger prints to illustrate this connection.
fingerprint tree art

upcycled cardboard handprint tree art

Other great questions to ask:

What are the many gifts we receive from trees every day?
Why do we have a New Year holiday just to honor trees?
What are your Tu B’Shvat New Year resolutions?
Why is the Torah called Eitz Chayim, Tree of Life?


The different colors of white and red grape juice represent the changing seasons:

1st Cup. This one is just the white grape juice. It represents winter, when nature is asleep. The earth can be snow-covered, taking a rest from blooming and blossoming.
2nd Cup. This one is white juice with a little red mixed in. It represents the spring approaching and the colors of the season changing as the snow melts and flowers begin to show themselves.
3rd Cup. This is mostly red with a little white mixed in. It reminds us of summertime, and flowers in full bloom.
4th Cup. This one is all red. It represents the rich and dark fall autumn colors Leaves are changing, crops are growing, and the trees are filled with blossoms.


Now you’ve got all of the tools, just add some friends and family who enjoy each other’s company and who like to eat and talk.

Make a blessing over the 1st cup of juice: Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam borei p’ri hagafen (Thank you to the Source of Life for creating the fruit of the vine).  Follow this up with a short discussion of the meaning behind the color of the juice and the season it represents.

Pass around the 1st plate of fruit. Make sure everyone takes a good look, feel and smell of the fruit before making a blessing over the fruit: Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam borei p’ri ha-etz (Thank you to the Rule of the Universe that creates the fruit of the tree).  Enjoy the rest of the plate of fruit along with a rich discussion of the 1st question.

Follow this with round two and so on all the way through the fourth of everything. Instead of eating fruit for the fourth seder plate, take this opportunity to plant seeds. Why plant? Discuss.

What questions do you ask at your Tu B’Shvat Seder?

Growing Up Green with ShirLaLa

January 1st, 2016

Click on the screen below to start growing up green with ShirLaLa

Little People Can Make a Big Difference – a Tu B’Shvat Top Ten

January 1st, 2016

Little People Can Make a Big Difference

Little People Can Make a Big Difference!!
(click on the picture or link above to open this PDF)

The earth gives us many gifts, fresh air, spectacular colors, yummy tastes, and natural wonders, and it’s important that we appreciate these gifts by growing up green. There are lots of ways to grow up green.  Simply understanding where things come from makes us a little bit greener. Did you know the water that comes out of your kitchen sink probably comes from a river or lake?  Even the iPods we listen to are made from metals found deep in the earth.  Did you know that electricity comes from many places, from the coal found in mountains, from the strong sun above and even from the wind that blows through the trees? Did you flip a light switch today? Well, if you did, you received the gift of electricity from our planet. It’s up to each one of us to take care of the earth so that we can keep enjoying her gifts!

Here are ten ways a green kid can become a little bit greener: 

  1. Big kids save little animals. If you save the little animals, even the littlest ants, bees and caterpillars, you can save an entire eco-system.
  2. Start a collection of colors, sounds, smells and textures.  You’ll find them in the sky, in the park, on the beach, in photographs of butterflies, volcanoes, stars and in your backyard.
  3. Plant an edible garden. You can plant a vegetable garden inside or outside; eating the vegetables is good for you and the garden is good for the air and the dirt.
  4. Invent a magical machine to clean the air.  (Thank you!)
  5. Meet your neighbors.  Your neighbors are not only down the street but all over the world!  Each one of us can play an important part in taking care of our planet.
  6. Smile at flowers and say Hi!  “Hi Rose, Hi Lilly, Hi Violet, Hydrangea!”  They love to be noticed.
  7. Say thank you.  We receive nature’s gifts from every corner of the earth.  What’s the best way to say thank you?
  8. Decorate your recycling bins.  Make pictures and lists that explain exactly what can be recycled so that everyone knows were to put things.
  9. Share.  When you get new toys, books and clothes, where do the old ones go?  Hopefully not into the ground with the rest of our trash.  You can share these things with other kids!
  10.  Love your nature because nature loves you. 

Tu B’Shvat: Happy Birthday Dear Treeeees

January 1st, 2016

happy birthday dear treesThe Origins of Tu B’Shvat

Happy Tu B’Shvat! This is the New Year of the trees, the birthday of the Trees, Jewish Earth Day, Eco-Jew Holiday, basically a time to honor all things growing and nourishing.

Once upon a time this date “T U b’Shvat” – the 15th of the Hebrew month Shvat –   was more about agricultural taxation.  Biblical law carefully protected a tree from being harvested before it was ready. Tu B’Shvat calculated the age of the trees and marked the yearly date that a tree’s produce could be harvested. Historians tell the story of a Springtime folk festival in Israel when the Priests would take one tenth of the fruit trees’ crops and send them to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Today we can find a number of verses throughout the Tanach that are linked to Tu B’Shvat and that we use to teach about the Jewish perspective on the environment.

Back in the day

Back in the 16th century that is, a group of Jewish mystics lived in the holy city of Tzfat in Israel. Over many a day and night they discussed and explored how to relate to God. On the holiday of Tu B’Shvat they wondered how best to honor the New Year of the trees. So they created a special Seder for Tu B’Shvat. (You may remember what a Seder is from Passover.) To this day, we gather together around a table with 4 questions, 4 cups of juice, 3 sets of amazing fruits, plenty of music and great discussion.
Invite children to make tu b'shvat seder plate.jpg

D.I.Y. Tu B’Shvat Seder It’s a lot of fun, very tasty and an amazing way to rediscover what we have in common with nature. Click here for more resources.

Did you know that the Torah is called a “Tree of Life?” Why do you think that is? If you have ideas, I’d love to hear about them. Send them along to TreeOfLife@shirlala.com By the way, the Torah is also compared to a fig tree. You can read more about it in the Babylonian Talmud or click here for more information!birthday cake for the trees

Trees celebrate their birthday in the winter? Tu B’Shvat usually falls in the wintertime where we live. But in Israel where the holiday was invented, it’s springtime! And we all know what happens in the spring. Blossoms and new leaves and new crops. So we celebrate an agricultural New Year on this day.

Did you know that the name Tu B’Shvat comes from it’s date on the Hebrew calendar? Gematria is a neat system that gives each of the letters of the alef-bet a numerical value. Can you guess what the TU in Tu B’Shvat stands for?