Until recently, Tu B’Shvat—the Jewish “new year” for trees—was a minor observance on the Jewish calendar. It isn’t mentioned in the Bible, and the Talmud has little to say about how to observe the day. So why is it that, across the modern denominations, Tu B’Shvat has grown into a festival of larger significance? How did what Rabbi Irving Greenberg once called a “minor semi-festival” become an environmentalist blockbuster?
In this podcast, policy expert and presidential historian Tevi Troy joins Tikvah’s Jonathan Silver to discuss the history of Tu B’Shvat and its growing association with left-wing environmentalism. Using Troy’s 2015 Commentary essay, “I Think That I Shall Never See a Jew as Lovely as a Tree,” to guide their conversation, Troy and Silver discuss the history of the day and its politicization, opening up onto a larger discussion of the dangers of preaching politics from the pulpit and the proper Jewish attitude toward the conservation of nature.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.