Four Types of Tu Bishvat
How the holiday developed.
The Tu Bishvat of the Environmentalists
The environmentalist Fifteenth of Shvat is a day of ecological tikkun olam, of repairing the planet, which has been appallingly devastated over the course of the last century by the human race. Beginning in the 1970s, environmentalists started to cry out and warn us against cutting off the branches that we were sitting on. Some of the Jews among those who sounded that alarm felt a need to express themselves in the terminology of their own culture. That is how Tu Bishvat became more and more the central day of environmental awareness in the Jewish year. More and more Tu Bishvat seders began to take on an environmental character, and recently, Tu Bishvat has even been declared "officially" to be the Jewish Earth Day.
The environmentalist Tu Bishvat, in my opinion, gives us a picture of a rooted Jewish paradigm in conflict with both Zionist Judaism and halakhic Judaism. The conflict with Zionism is expressed, to take one example, in the change of Tu Bishvat into a universal Earth Day, rather than a day only for the earth of the Land of Israel.
Similarly, the environmentalist Tu Bishvat is in direct confrontation with halakhic Judaism because the environmentalist Tu Bishvat understands the halakhic essence of the holiday to be mitzvot [commandments]that apply to the world as a whole and not only to the Land of Israel. The message of the environmentalist Tu Bishvat is that one must interpret the word "land" not just as the Land of Israel, but as Earth, as the world. This, of course, is in direct conflict with the traditional, halakhic viewpoint. For the groups behind the environmentalist Tu Bishvat, this conflict is part of the attempt to fashion an entire system of alternative halakhah, which is expressed, for example, by the ethical claims for all eco-kashrut that goes beyond food to other "fruit of the earth" that we consume, like coal and oil and paper.
We have before us, then, four different types of tikkun: social, theological, national-historical, and ecological. These four types of tikkun signify not only four different "Tu Bishvats," but also four different world views. Every one of these four viewpoints constitutes a revolutionary change relative to the views that preceded it. Within each of these revolutionary changes is a veiled or open rebellion. The change and the rebellion become expressed in a characteristic ritual, which is innovative in comparison with the previous incarnations of this day.
It is possible, therefore, to see in each of the four different Tu Bishvats a weaving of rebellion and continuity. I personally have a problem with that pair, "rebellion and continuity." It's too black-and-white and has the stale taste of Modernism. However, I am interested not in doing away with it, but rather in adding to it the pair "dismantling (peruk)-repairing (tikkun).".
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