While your teacher would go on and on about draining swamps, chalutzim, and wearing kovah tembels, you would sit there and sample the “best” that Israel had to offer. Which usually meant that you got to eat boxer fruits from the carob tree, and break your teeth in the process. You see, by the time that delicious fruit got picked from the carob tree in Israel, transported by plodding camel and refurbished tractor to some warehouse (where it probably sat for weeks), and then shipped for weeks across the ocean to North America, it was shriveled, black, tasteless, and tooth-chipping hard. In what must have been a nefarious plot by dentists (who incidentally were overwhelmingly represented on the parents association) teeth would chip and shatter all over Jewish Day Schools in Montreal, as boxer after boxer from the Holy Land was chewed and swallowed down with the same perverse pride a fighter must feel for taking a helluva punch. The “pain” of the exile was acutely felt in those moments.
Thank God, things have gotten better for Jewish Day School children experiencing what is the Rosh Hashana of the trees. In addition to transportation methods improving, the holiday itself is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, thanks to Jews rediscovering the mystical elements of the holiday, and the pairing of Tu B'Shvat with a broader understanding of ecology, Israeli geography and environmental sustainability.
I’ll leave you with two teachings on creation and nature…
Rabbi Baruch of Mezibush, a great Chassidic Rebbe, and a grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov, said:
"God placed sparks of holiness within everything in nature"
And from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Chassidic Rebbe at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the main seminary of Conservative Judaism:
"Human beings must cherish the world, said the Ba'al Shem Tov. To deprecate, to deride it was presumption. Creation, all of creation, was pervaded with dignity and purpose and embodied God’s meaning."
Shabbat Shalom to all...