Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tu BiShvat 5776 - Cup 1, Fruit 1, Step 1

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

During a seder on Tu Bishvat, the New Year for the Trees, we drink four cups of wine or grape juice and experience four kinds of fruits, customs that originated with the ancient Jewish mystics. Here you will find a modern twist, with reflections on these sets of four through the lens of climate change and our response, including references to the Four Steps for the Planet people were invited to take prior to Paris COP21 in solidarity with pilgrims walking across Europe and Africa to the climate talks. 

This is the first in a series of four posts for Tu BiShvat.

We begin our journey in the cold and dark of winter, in the world of Assiyah. We fill a cup with white wine or grape juice and our plates with fruits and nuts with a hard outer shell and a soft edible inside. We rise to take our first step for the planet.

Assiyah is actualization, the physical world of doing and acting. The fruits we eat remind us of the hard shells we carry with us, acting as a barrier between ourselves and the outer world. These fruits teach us that the hard outer shell of another may be masking a soft and tender heart. They symbolize the divine spark within each living being.

The hard outer shells also represent the denial of the reality of climate change that we hold onto in order to get through our days, as well as the times we put the specter of climate change aside in order to live in the precious now of our lives. Assiyah also represents the actions we take in an effort to mitigate the impact of rising global temperatures. It represents the changes in our individual and collective lifestyles: the gardens we plant, the letters we write, the rallies we attend, the solar panels we install, and every other action to try to make the world safer for all the inhabitants of the planet. Assiyah symbolizes the ecological choices required to reduce global energy consumption.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit. She is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network, and a hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 2005. 

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