Tu Bishvat and the Torah of Place
We are excited to announce that Mitsui Design founder Yoshi Silverstein's recent ELI Talk in NYC is officially live for your viewing pleasure!
In this 13-minute talk, hear how soil, compost, Hebrew doo-doo, and a childhood full of place-based nature experiences inspired a new approach to Jewish learning and community building: the Torah of Place. We hope you enjoy it, and please share both the video and your thoughts, responses, critiques, and questions!
Meanwhile, tonight is Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees! In many places, especially this winter, Tu Bishvat is not the most comfortable of times to go outside. Nonetheless, it's a particularly good time to connect to place as a reminder to help get us through to the more pleasant seasons.
At the coldest part of year, how do we connect to place? First, sub-freezing temperatures don't have to be an excuse to stay inside! With appropriate gear and clothing, it's possible (and fun!) to head outside in all but the worst conditions (ok, maybe not in the middle of recent blizzards, but how about after?). Taking your dog or kids outside is a great way to raise the spirits and get the blood pumping with a snowball fight or romp in the woods. Exercising outside in the winter also provides mental, physical, and health benefits and is particularly important for children.
Yoshi and students inspect animal tracks in McCall, Idaho's Ponderosa State Park
Winter time also affords a look at ecologies that are a bit different than other times of the year. Depending where you are, there may be winter berries, animal tracks easily visible in the snow, or just beautiful shrubs and trees covered in frosty snow or glass-like ice, as in New York last night after a day of freezing rain -- admittedly somewhat treacherous, but lovely! Parks and nature reserves also tend to be a lot quieter during winter time, so grab a chance at some cherished solitude, whether by yourself, with a few loved ones, or just a fuzzy friend.
Of course, the holiday of Tu Bishvat has all the ingredients of place built right into the seder, literally bringing tastes of food and drink from Israel to seder tables around the world. This sensory experience is a great (and warm) way to connect to your local place too. Alongside the dates, pomegranate seeds, figs, and other middle eastern delicacies, are there other fruits and vegetables from your local region that can sit side by side the traditional seder items? Perhaps roasted pumpkin or other seeds from winter squash you scored at the farmers market, dried fruit or preserves you or a friend saved from summertime? For those lucky enough to live in wine country, are there local wineries you can support and enjoy for the seder? Or, for the rest of us, maybe a special follow-up seder featuring locally-brewed craft beer, starting with a light pilsner or winter blonde ale, and progressing through amber ale, brown ale, and finishing with a dark and hoppy winter ale. Paired with a selection of local cheeses and fruit spreads? Now we're getting hungry ... (Didn't think beer and cheese go together? From personal experience, I can say the definitely do. Interested? Check out these Do's and Don'ts and this infographic)
However you celebrate Tu Bishvat this year, let be a chance to not only appreciate the beauty and necessity of trees and the natural world, but also a chance to appreciate the unique qualities that make your place special. And if you can do it with delicious eats and drinks in the company of friends and loved ones? Sounds like a pretty nice celebration.
Happy Tu Bishvat!
More resources for a place-based Tu Bishvat: