Tu B’Shvt, January’s Jewish Holiday, called for a celebration of the birth of trees. Another name for the day is Rosh HaShanah La’Llanot, “New Year for Trees.” The holiday recalls the importance of God’s creation and the gift of nature. Trees appear as unique markers in the Torah, so a holiday dedicated to celebrating life via trees and tree symbolism is profoundly rooted in ancient biblical ideas about life and wellness.
As far as Jewish holidays go, this one provided an opportunity to pause and reflect on nature and the gift of fruit-bearing trees. The holiday anticipates the coming spring at a time when winter frost barely begins to melt as the days grow a little bit longer. To celebrate Tu B’Shvt, we ate a meal filled with fruits and vegetables and planted seeds from fruits.
The Days United Jewish Holiday celebration box for the Tu B’Shvt celebration of Trees included a balancing game my son named “tree Jenga.” We also planted the seeds of limes and lemons in a growing soil, which we potted in a box we wove together with felt. We laughed during the games and enjoyed our evening together. We read from the Seder guide and ate a meal laden with nuts, dried and fresh fruits, and vegetables.
As is the case in many of the Jewish holidays we have celebrated this year, there is an implicit message of justice and a call to remember people who are marginalized or oppressed. Since this holiday falls near the U.S. holiday celebrating the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., it seems natural to remember that the Torah calls people to have compassion for the oppressed, to show kindness to strangers or foreigners, and to act with justice.
This holiday came during a busy season in our lives, and we didn’t give it attention equal to other Jewish holidays we’ve celebrated this year. I started this journey to celebrate Jewish holidays at Passover last spring, so I will soon be concluding the year of Jewish holidays with Purim. If you missed some of the other blog posts, feel free to search for Jewish Holidays at Scholarly Wanderlust.
Read more about the Jewish holidays I am celebrating, or look up specific holidays like Shavu’ot, Passover, Sukkoth, or “Lag Ba’Omer. The Jewish holidays can also be found under “Readings & Interpretations.”
Dr. Erica Mongé-Greer, holding a PhD in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen, is a distinguished researcher and educator specializing in Biblical Ethics, Mythopoeia, and Resistance Theory. Her work focuses on justice in ancient religious texts, notably reinterpreting Psalm 82’s ethics in the Hebrew Bible, with her findings currently under peer review.
In addition to her academic research, Dr. Mongé-Greer is an experienced University instructor, having taught various biblical studies courses. Her teaching philosophy integrates theoretical discussions with practical insights, promoting an inclusive and dynamic learning environment.
Her ongoing projects include a book on religious themes in the series Battlestar Galactica and further research in biblical ethics, showcasing her dedication to interdisciplinary studies that blend religion with contemporary issues.