A Tu B’Shvat Ritual for Teens and the adults in their lives
This year, Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the trees begins at sundown on Sunday, February 5, 2023 and ends at nightfall on Monday, February 6, 2023.
One of the classical Jewish sources about trees comes from the Talmud (Masekhet Taanit 23a) and revolves around the story of a man named Honi HaMe’aggel or Honi the Circle Maker who was known for his piety, scholarship, and spiritual feats like bringing rain in a time of drought.
For this ritual, you might choose to go near a body of water, or if that is not an option, fill a beautiful bowl with water and place it in the center of your circle or table.
- Seed packets (1 per person)
- Text handout
Short Text Study or Storytelling
Take a few minutes to read this story together or study it in whatever language you are comfortable with. If you have more time and want to read the context of the story, you can find here.
|יוֹמָא חַד הֲוָה אָזֵל בְּאוֹרְחָא, חַזְיֵיהּ לְהָהוּא גַּבְרָא דַּהֲוָה נָטַע חָרוּבָא, אֲמַר לֵיהּ: הַאי, עַד כַּמָּה שְׁנִין טָעֵין? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: עַד שִׁבְעִין שְׁנִין. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: פְּשִׁיטָא לָךְ דְּחָיֵית שִׁבְעִין שְׁנִין? אֲמַר לֵיהּ הַאי גַּבְרָא: עָלְמָא בְּחָרוּבָא אַשְׁכַּחְתֵּיהּ. כִּי הֵיכִי דִּשְׁתַלוּ לִי אֲבָהָתִי — שְׁתַלִי נָמֵי לִבְרָאִי.||One day [a man named Honi the Circle Maker] was walking along the road when he saw a certain man planting a carob tree. Ḥoni said to him: This tree, after how many years will it bear fruit? The man said to him: It will not produce fruit until seventy years have passed. Ḥoni said to him: Is it obvious to you that you will live seventy years, that you expect to benefit from this tree? He said to him: That man himself found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, I too am planting for my descendants. (Taanit 23, a)|
- Why is the man in the text planting a carob tree?
- What message do you think it’s sending? What’s your reaction to this message?
- What is the difference between social change that you can benefit from and social change that the next generation will benefit from?
- In the next part of the Honi story, Honi falls asleep for seventy years. When he wakes up he actually sees someone gathering carobs from the tree and finds out that this person is a child of the original tree planter. How does knowing this part of the story change your thoughts about your own life and work? What do we need from one another and from ourselves if we are in the middle of the story, not the end?
At this point you may wish to share a story of from your own life that helped you understand that social change is a journey, and you won’t likely see ALL of the effects of current activism in your life time.
Then pass around some fruit or carob chips. Alternatively, consider planting parsley seeds which you might be able to use at your Passover seder if you are lucky.
As you do so, invite a final round of sharing:
- What is one something SMALL thing you want to accomplish or learn this year when it comes to social change?
- What is a dream you have for the world seventy years from now?
Go around and take turns naming:
- Some things that seeds need to grow and be nurtured? (water, sun, care, fertilizer, time) And some things that your seeds need to be nurtured?
- Some things that gardeners know we can’t fully control? (outdoor climate, bugs) And something that might get in the way of your hopes for change?
On this Tu B’Shvat, may we find ways to care for ourselves as nurturers of the seeds of change
May the families, friends and communities we are part of support our thriving and our visions
And if our seeds – and corresponding efforts at change — don’t grow the way we hope they will grow, may we learn and reflect productively, avoiding harsh self-blame
May we empty our pots and plant news seeds when we are ready.
May we build on what has been planted by others and bring new wisdom to it.
Ken Yehi Ratzon, so may it come to be.