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Trees, Earth and Torah [Paperback]

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Item Number 135933  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   512
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.04" Width: 6.04" Height: 1.12"
Weight:   1.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 15, 2000
Publisher   Jewish Publications Society
ISBN  0827607172  
EAN  9780827607170  

Availability  112 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 23, 2016 09:49.
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Item Description...
Trees, Earth, and Torah is the first extensive collection of Jewish resources for observing the increasingly popular late-winter holiday of Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish "New Year of the Tree." This anthology draws from biblical, rabbinical, medieval, and modern sources that address the significance and historical development of the holiday, offers several examples of a "Seder Tu B'Shvat," and includes mystical writings along with Zionist and Eco-Jewish pieces.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An excellent resource for this Jewish Holiday  Jan 13, 2003
As far as I know, this is the first major anthology on Tu B'Shevat, which is the "Birthday of the Trees" on the Jewish calendar. The book begins with an excellent essay called "The Living Tree: A Festival's Growth through History" by Arthur Waskow. His essay traces the development of Tu B'Shevat from an agricultural tax-date associated with tithing in biblical times, to a mystical meal to renew the Tree of Life in the Middle Ages, to it's current focus on ecology and global survival.

Waskow's essay becomes the framework for arranging the rest of the book like a growing tree. After all, the Torah is called a "Tree of Life"! The "roots" of Tu B'Shevat are found in biblical Judaism, the strong "trunk" was formed in rabbinical Judaism, and the "branches" are various post-Talmudic movements such as Kabbalah and Hasidism, Zionism and the Land of Israel, modern Eco-Judaism, etc. Finally, there is a section on the Festival itself, which includes a variety of essays, songs, and other resources for celebrating the holiday.

Parts of this book are heavy on the "Jewish Renewal" POV, which is not surprising, since the "eco-kosher" movement began in that circle. Some of the material, such as the "Olamama" love song to Mother Earth by Hannah Tiferet, is a bit too neo-pagan for my Orthodox tastes. And while "The Bear in Me" is a nice idea for a song about nature waking up in the spring, the words "There's a bear hibernating in the crook of a tree" are not true to life -- unless the tree is meant to be a metaphor for Tu B'Shevat. Real bears do not hibernate in trees!

On the other hand, there's quite a bit of traditional material, too -- some of it never before published in English. Of special interest to me are a translation of the Ari's 16th-century kabbalistic version of the Tu B'Shevat seder, and a translation of a "lost" medieval poem called "Shemona Esrei of the Trees." The latter was unknown in modern times until it was re-discovered among the manuscripts that Solomon Schechter brought back from the Cairo genizah in 1896. It continued to languish in the obscurity of academe until Joyce Galaski fell in love with it and did this translation. The poem, which is believed to date to around the 10th or 11th century, is the oldest known liturgical piece based on this festival. Not only that, it's beautiful! (The Hebrew text of the poem is also included.)

The rabbinical "trunk" section has two excellent pieces on the halachic principle of "bal taschit" ("you shall not destroy") and how it was expanded from a biblical prohibition against cutting down fruit trees in times of war (Deut. 20:19-20) into a general prohibition against vandalism, wastefulness, conspicuous consumption, and any unnecessary destruction of resources.

These examples are only a tiny nibble of the many gourmet tastes of Torah to be sampled in "Trees, Earth, and Torah." Like all such anthologies, it's definitely a mixed bowl of fruit, some sweeter than others. Taken as a whole, however, the book is a wonderful feast! It should be in every Jewish library.

Excellent anthology  Mar 27, 2002
Since Tu B'Shvat is arguably the most vegetarian of Jewish holidays because of its many connections to vegetarian themes and concepts, vegetarians should joyfully welcome the publication of this anthology with its abundance of material that should contribute to the increasing popularity of this mid-winter holiday. All who are looking for ways to apply new, creative approaches to ancient festivals should also be pleased.

Among the following valuable and interesting features the book contains are:
1) An introductory essay by Arthur Waskow that traces Tu B'Shvat's growth throughout history from its original status as a day that separated trees in terms of when tithings were due, through the establishment of the Tu B'Shvat seder by the kabbalists of Sefat in the sixteenth century, through the associations with tree-planting of nineteenth century Zionists, to recent adaptations by modern environmentalists;
2) Quotations related to trees and other Tu B'Shvat-related concepts from the Torah and other Jewish sources;
3) Material related to rabbinic dicussions related to Tu B'Shvat, including a recently discovered medieval prayer, "Shmoneh Esrei for the New Year for Trees," and insightful essays on bal tashchit, the mandate to not waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, based on a Torah verse not to destroy fruit-bearing trees in wartime, by Rabbi Norman Lamm, President of Yeshiva University, and by Eilon Schwartz, Director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Israel.
4) Seven items relating kabbalah and hasidism to Tu B'Shvat, including a translation of "Peri Eitz Hadar," a kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat seder.
5) Five items relating Tu B'Shvat to Zionism and the land of Israel, including an extensive analysis of how the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet le-Yisrael) used tree plantings on Tu B'Shvat to educate young Israelis on love of the land of Israel and nature.
6) Thirteen wide-ranging items on connections between Tu B'Shvat themes and "eco-Judaism' and current environmental problems, including essays relating the holiday to recent efforts to save the Redwood forests and an analysis of current environmental threats by Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological seminaryt.
7) Much wonderful material to help celebrate Tu B'Shvat today, including blessings for the seder, suggestions for cooking up a Tu B'Shvat seder, suggestions to involve children in the Tu B'Shvat seder and other holiday-related activities, suggestions about planting and taking care of trees, suggestions about new Tu B'Shvat traditions, recipes, and songs.
8) An article co-authored by Jonathan Wolf and this author on "Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Tu B'Shvat," which discusses aspects of "the most vegetarian holiday".
9) Sources for Learning and Doing ("Seeds"), including a listing of "Environmental Organizations, Publications, and Videos," a discussion of several Tu B'Shvat seder Haggadot, and sources for information about tree planting.
This brief summary can only give a taste of the many "fruity" delights in this book, and I regret having to leave out mention of many significant themes and distinguished authors. Because of its many environmental and vegetarian connections, I hope that this wonderful anthology will be widely read and discussed so that it will meet its potential to play a major role in the expansion and enhancement of an increasingly popular Tu B'Shva

Delicious and varied as Tu B'Shvat fruit!  Nov 3, 1999
The quality and variety of the selections are amazing: poetry by Marge Piercy & Marcia Falk, songs by Shefa Gold & Hanna Tiferet Siegel, scholarly articles by Miles Krassen & Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, the original Kabbalistic Seder from Safed & Ellen Bernstein's seder for today, meditations on trees by Ismar Schorsch and Zalman Schachter, wonderful papercuts and a cartoon comix by Joel Lurie Grishaver, fruit-dish recipes from Iran and India, essays on tree-planting in Israel -- totally delicious, not only for preparing Tu B'Shvat celebrations but also browsing anytime of year.

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