The New Year of the Trees Celebrates Not Untrammeled Nature but the Human Perfection of Nature

Feb. 10 2020

The Jewish holiday of Tu b’Shvat is, strictly speaking, a tax deadline: fruit that ripen prior to this date are considered to be part of the previous year’s crop for the purposes of various tithes. But 17th-century kabbalists invested the day with mystical significance, and thereafter it became a date symbolizing Jews’ connection with the Land of Israel, before being repurposed again as the basis for a tenuous sort of Jewish environmentalism. This transformation of the date described in the Talmud as “the new year for the trees” may seem commonsensical, but Etan Golubtchik argues that in fact it is antithetical to the day’s meaning. As he explains, the idea of a human obligation to subdue and cultivate nature, rather than to leave it wild and untrammeled, is deeply rooted in Jewish theology, beginning with God’s commandment to Adam “to work and to guard” the Garden of Eden and further evidenced by the rabbis’ description of an encounter between the 1st-century sage Rabbi Akiva and the Roman provincial governor Turnus Rufus:

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Circumcision, Environmentalism, Jewish environmentalism, Judaism, Rabbi Akiva, Tu b'Shvat

The Attack on the Colleyville Synagogue and the Battle of Narratives

Jan. 21 2022

In the aftermath of high-profile, violent incidents in the U.S., there is virtually always a national attempt to blame one or the other major political party. Dominic Green, considering the recent hostage-taking at a Colleyville, Texas synagogue, notes that while political discussions of this type may not matter much to the victims of any given attack, they have an invidious effect on our politics. For Jewish parents worried about whether to send their kids to school, he suggests,

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Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, U.S. Politics