It’s Almost Tu Bishvat, Go Touch Some Grass

The Jewish holiday is the perfect time to log off, take some time in nature and say a blessing over the natural wonder in this world.

Picture this: You’re on God knows what hour of Netflix binging. It’s later at night than you’d like, but you can’t seem to stop mindlessly staring at the glow of your TV or computer screen. One episode concludes and begins to merge into another when a message pops up: “Are you still watching?” It’s usually a jolting, albeit non-judgmental reminder that hey, maybe you should go do something else for a bit and experience life outside of apps and memes and scrolling.

This is that real-life message for you.

As Tu Bishvat, the halachic birthday of trees and de facto Jewish Earth Day, approaches, we at Hey Alma say lovingly: Go touch some grass. Log off for a bit and find a log to sit on. Basically, find a way to commune with nature this Tu Bishvat. To get our readers in the headspace to do that, we’ve dubbed this week “Tree Week” and will be sharing a handful of personal essays and listicles all about the special Jewish connection to the natural world.

Of course, context is important. We recognize that Tu Bishvat and “Tree Week” are falling while there is still no permanent ceasefire in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. It is absolutely a privilege to be able to tell our readers to “touch grass” while Palestinians have experienced bombardment and Israeli hostages have been held for over 100 days. In finding time to engage with nature, we are not asking you to disengage from all the pain and suffering of the world and the action that needs to be done to alleviate it. Rather, we hope that the peace and centering you gain from feeling closer to the Earth reaffirms your place in the unending work of tikkun olam.

With all that in mind, here are some ways to be in nature this week:

1. Seriously, go touch some grass

Whether it your yard, a park or a patch of plant growth in the sidewalk, head to the nearest source of grass. Once you’re there, gently touch it. Notice its texture, scent and stage of life. Ask yourself: How does it feel? How do you feel? And what does it mean to you to be connected to the Earth?

2. Listen to the trees

Perhaps on that same outing, find the nearest tree or trees. Standing below them, plant your feet solidly into the ground, close your eyes and just listen for a few moments. Breathe deeply, in and out. Ask yourself: What does this tree sound like in rain? In snow? In wind? With birds and rustling leaves, and without? What is this tree/trees saying? What do you need from it? And what does it need from you?

And if you want to listen to more trees from around the world, check out!

3. Go for a walk at sunrise

Even if you’re not a morning person, we promise this is worth it!! Wake while the stars are still out, stretch your legs and enliven your body. Allow yourself to feel the air turn from cold night to sun-soaked morning. Can you recognize the first moment you can see a ray of light? When has the night completely ended? Allow yourself to look up to the sky (not directly at the sun though…) and witness the morning colors.

4. Start an herb garden

There’s no better way to connect to the natural world than consciously taking care of it. Set aside some space in your yard or window sill, or even get connected to a community green space. Make a list of items you’ll need like soil, pots, seeds, a watering can, etc. and decide what herbs are for you. Maybe you dream of lavender sprigs in your pillow or of grinding mint for a calming tea. Maybe you need basil to go in your pasta sauce or parsley for your seder plate. There are plenty of resources online to show you the ropes of garden care, and if the cost of starting an herb garden by yourself is too restrictive, see if your roommates, friends, or family would want to go in on creating one together.

5. See a natural wonder, say a blessing

Tu Bishvat and the days around it are the perfect opportunity to fully express your gratitude for nature. And, of course, there is no shortage of Jewish blessings to say upon seeing natural wonders.

For the rain:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַטּוֹב וְהַמֵּטִיב

Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam hatov vehameitiv.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the cosmos, who is good and does good.

For the sea:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂה אֶת הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל

Baruch ata Adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam she’asa et hayam hagadol.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the cosmos, who has made the great sea.

For a rainbow:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךהָעולָם זוכֵר הַבְּרִית וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתו וְקַיָּם בְּמַאֲמָרו

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh zokher hab’rit v’ne’eman bivrito v’kayam b’ma’amaro.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to God’s covenant, and keeps God’s promise.

For flowering trees during the Hebrew month of Nissan:

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam shelo chiseir ba-olamo k’lum uvara vo briyot tovot v’ilanot tovim l’hitna’ot bahen b’nei Adam.

Blessed are You, Our God, King of the Universe whose world lacks nothing and who made wondrous creations and beautiful trees for human beings to enjoy.

For large scale wonders like mountains or the ocean:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם עֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֶׂה בְרֵאשִׁית

Barukh atah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha’olam, oseh ma’aseh v’reshit.

You are blessed, our God, Ruler of the world, Source of creation.

For bringing you to this moment:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽינוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה

Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, shehechiyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are You Eternal Spirit who has given us life, sustained us and allowed us to arrive in this moment.

Welcome to Tree Week! In the days surrounding Tu Bishvat 5784, we at Hey Alma are celebrating all things tree and natured-related. Check back in all week for more on the special Jewish connection to our planet.

Read More