Educator Resource

Voices from the field

Rega Shel Limud: Tu B'Shvat

By Shalom Orzach

Olive Tree at Ramat RachelTu B'Shvat - the New Year for Trees - always falls close to Shabbat Shira, a Shabbat (or perhaps a week) of singing. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov captures this juxtaposition in his writings in Likutei Moharan. He exquisitely describes how each blade of grass has its own melody (shira). From listening to those musical scores, the shepherds, grazing their flock, develop their own tune. Naomi Shemer composed the Shirat Ha’asavim, The Song of the Grasses based on this teaching:

Know that each and every shepherd has his own tune.
Know that each and every grass has its own song.
And from the song of the grasses the tune of the shepherd is made.

If we listen really hard, perhaps we, too, will hear the harmonies that celebrate and give expression to the sheer wonders of nature. Our world of noise often blots out the music, in the same way as our world of lights restricts our ability to really see. The Psalmist David also perfectly captured this by incorporating and thus equating the “oz” of Oz Yashir (אז ישיר, "then they will sing) - the opening phrase of the song sung by Moshe and the Children of Israel following the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, to the “oz” of אז ירננו כל עצי יער, “then all the forest trees will sing praises.” The whole of this chapter 96 forms part of our Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat prayers, opening with שירו ליהוה שיר חדש שירו ליהוה כל הארץ: "Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth."

This week let us teach the world to sing from listening attentively to the singing world.


Questions to Encourage Discussion

  1. What ideas or insights will you be planting this Tu B'shvat?
  2. In the tradition of eating or being nourished from the fruits of Israel, which fruits or nourishment will you be getting this year?
  3. What Israeli song will you be adding to your play list? Let us know!