Monthly Archives: January 2011


Calling All Green Bubbies- (and zaydees) Everywhere:

Wherever you are- call the children (it doesn't really matter whose children they are- the farther the better!
Ask them to go out and look up in the sky. Find out if they see what you see- What shape is the moon that they see?

Is it the same as yours? Do you see the same moon?

Remember- if this is the Hebrew month of Shevat, and the Moon is FULL- it can only mean one thing:
Tu BShevat HeGiah - Hag HaElanot! Tu Shevat has arrived- the holiday of the trees- and you can see them by the light of the moon!
so wherever you are, LOOK UP - and be grateful!

1 Comment

The almond, the moon, and the cupcake tree. An almond, a moon, and a cupcake tree. Almonds, the moon, my cupcake tree, and yours.

It was the afternoon of the evening of January 12th, 2011, also known as Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat and I went to visit my grandchildren.
I have always loved the holiday of Tu B'Shevat- simply named, the 15th of the (Hebrew) month of Shevat. When I was a child I loved the 'treats' we were given in Hebrew School- especially the bokser that I couldn't even bite. I did love trying to make music with it. I was very skeptical of a land called Israel which produced this inedible, strange 'bokser' was it a seed? a fruit? Way before there was 'fruit leather' there was something called 'bokser' (carob)
This harsh and ugly fruit certainly had an effect on me. I can't explain why, but I loved the physical connection to a foreign Eretz Yisroel. Years later, I was struck by how the hard inedible 'tree candy' of my childhood had become a brown paper tree covered with super soft cotton balls, dipped into pink paint and pasted together in classrooms across North America! The meaning and magic of Tu B'Shevat had escaped generations!
Now the TuB'Shevat Seder has begun to rival the Passover Seder- becoming the quintessential holiday of the environmental movement. Creativity, Kabalah, and agricultural enthusiasts of all ages have joined forces to connect so many different people, on so many different levels to this one day on the Jewish Calendar, Tu B'Shevat- the 15th day of the month of Shevat, arriving this Thursday, January 20.

But let me return to the almond, the moon and the cupcake tree. Think of them as three essential ingredients for the development of the 'spiritual imagination' - just add a Y (why?) and you have the beginning of a new (or re-newed) 'holistic' Tu B'Shevat! It's physical- you can taste it, you can feel it, see it. It's intellectual- you can contemplate the changes in the moon, you can see by the light of the full moon and learn the ins and outs of every fruit and kind of tree. And, it's good for the soul- the Rabbis say that, "Whoever blesses the new moon, brings the Shechina (the Divine Presence) into their lives."

Let's take it slow.
the almond + "Y" ? it's a nut! it's a flavor! it's a tree! it's a blossom! It is way more than a pink painted ball of cotton! When I was a Jerusalem Fellow, we lived in Israel for over a year. I came with my paints. I was on a mission to see and understand the mystery of the "Shekadia" the almond tree- the musical star of the TuB'Shevat.

We lived in the neighborhood of Har Nof (mountain view) which borders on the Jerusalem forest. I walked the forest frequently and traveled the roads of Israel for months from August (Av) until February- Shevat. It seemed like a miracle- as most physical changes in Israel do.
Overnight there were 'puffs' of pinkness- appearing like dots over barren hills in the distance.
Sure enough, on the very day of the 15th of Shevat, on my walk in the Jerusalem forest, there it was up close: the Shekadiah itself! Up close and personal, the almond tree and me. I saw the blossoms, with delicate pink tinged white petals all along the twigs, where soon the almonds would begin to form. Dangling from a few of the branches were dark brown hard shells- the remnants of the almonds from the previous season. It looked like a dogwood tree. I used my watercolors to translate my "Shekadiah' onto paper. That was many years ago. The painting now hangs on the wall in the home of my oldest grandson. So, when I mentioned the word, "almond" he said, "We have a story about that on our wall." Paintings and stories... they
intertwine- both beg for interpretation, their imagery setting the foundations for shared imagination, for memory, and for great debates.

almonds+ moon+ Why? When we bake 'almond moon cookies" we can see them rise and change shape and 'grow' just like the moon itself! - And of course, why talk when we can eat?

A child is never too young to see and connect with the moon. Is there anyone in our universe who has not read, "Good Night Moon?" A true test of green 'bubbie-ness' is the urge to take everyone out to see the moon and try to touch it. It is never too cold to look for the moon. And the really great thing about the month of Shevat is how early in the evening the moon appears in the dark sky.

Hint: the 15th of the Hebrew months is always the Full Moon. So, if you want to
watch the moon "grow" or "change" you can begin on any night. And then go look at the moon the next night, and the next, and the night after that. Unless it is cloudy, you will always see changes. If you are a parent or a green bubbie and you live far apart from your 'grand children' you can compare your observations of the moon by phone or by skype.

We looked for the moon on Rosh Chodesh- we saw a very tiny slice of moon! We made 'almond moon cookies' - tiny crescent moon shapes just like the new moon. We talked. As we rolled and shaped the dough, we made round flat moons, sphere moons, half moons, and even cinnamon covered moons because the 5 yr old said that he had heard the moon is sometimes red!

When you think of the moon, you may think 'blue' 'harvest' or 'red' Whether your moon is full or new, start baking and sharing almond "moon" cookies for Tu B'Shevat. No matter how old or young the people in your life are, make, bake, or suggest 'almond moon cookies' to accompany a real "tea party" (you know, it is make-believe, with little chairs and imaginary tea)

And now for the 'cup cake tree.' Don't forget about the 'Y" as in, "Why a cup cake tree?" (I actually encountered several young adults who were stumped trying to figure out what a cup cake tree is!) A cup cake tree is something I just thought of, I made it up. It can be whatever you want it to me- but "Why?"

At a certain stage of life we begin to talk about how quickly the years go by. TuB'Shevat is known as the "New Year of the Trees" At each passing year those blossoms seem to appear more often, or sooner. With each new "blossoming" we see on deeper levels, and may begin to appreciate the inter connection of all of God's Creation.

For young children, it's birthdays that have meaning, and birthdays mean cupcakes! So, if the trees are having a birthday, let's make some 'cup cakes' for the party.
I am not going to tell you what my 'cup cake tree' will look like- just try to imagine, as I try to imagine yours! Ask the people in your life how they might make a cup cake tree- it's a great way get to TuB'Shevat- and let us see those creations!

So as the years go by, stop and appreciate the 'renewal' that comes with each new blossom. Give the kids in your life " big bite" of Tradition. Savor the taste of the almonds. Get to know the trees in your life. Let their renewal, renew you.

And give the little ones the ingredients to develop their own 'religious imagination.'
Maybe someday they will ponder that "God made the trees, and God made me"
But don't tell them.
Even if it takes a lifetime to understand God's constant and continual presence, we get a hint with each new year, and with every day, and with every night, in between.

In light of this past week's events, I was reminded of the words of the Ohr HaChaim, that in our lives, we should be, "a magnet for good." Paraphrasing him in a letter to her past students, Rebbitzen Tziporrah Heller wrote, and I now paraphrase her, that if we were to treat people as the best we know they are, people will, in turn, strive to be that best version of themselves.Similarly, were we to treat people judgmentally, they would respond and act in that diminished version of themselves.
As I deputize myself as 'a green bubbie' I encourage myself to become a "magnet for good" as well. I am reminded to reach out and embrace and enlarge my circle. It isn't easy to grow spiritually. In fact, I have learned that if we were to imagine ourselves as spiritual swimmers- constantly moving ourselves to stay afloat, we would appreciate that should we stop that growth for just a moment we might drown. As spiritual beings, if we are not moving forward, we move back. Sounds harsh, but true.
In the garden, if our plants are not constantly nourished, we see them die back. With proper water, or additional light, we may witness their revival. The more we tune into the physical world, the more insightful I think we become of our spiritual lives. The ability to look at events in our world, and to ask, what I can I learn from this, what can I change in my own l life to heal, to contribute, to re-think how our lives, when touched, can grow.
By becomming a "magnet for good" I think we/I can strengthen the infrastructure of community, the many communities of which we are members and the ones we can create.

One small gesture that I think the 'green bubbies' of the world could take on is the 'active listening' to the younger generation(s) of parents,teachers,people of all ages. The seemingly simple act of asking, of listening, which of course involves making oneself available- even with an extra minute in line at the grocery store- taking the time to ask, "How are your children/students/parents/ doing?" So many people are so busy and afraid to ask, afraid to get involved. I think the willingness to ask, to listen, to pay attention to the lives of others, creates the opportunity for connection, caring and support.
At least to be able to say either: "That's sounds pretty normal to me. " or, "I can see why you're concerned."
Now as I write this, I am reminded of the negative imagery of the 'busybody' or the 'yenta' - while neither are role models for me, I think our generation of boomers- with our advanced degrees, psychological awareness, and interdenominational and professional networked connections can form a new model of engagement, based on our individual and collective experiences. We can reinforce the personal and social connective tissue of our communities. We can call on our vast musical and cinematic collective memories. We can reference our memory of the desire to make the world a better place. And we can do it wherever we are.
Perhaps we can update a gesture from a previous difficult time in America- let's see if we can transform, "Buddy, can you spare a dime?" to "Bubby, can you spare an ear?"

This is my not only my first posting of the new year, it is also my first post in almost a year. You see, the more I thought about 'the green bubbie' the more I liked the idea- so I decided to stop everything I was doing, and BECOME a green bubbie myself! I see 3 parts of the 'green bubbie'
First and foremost, a green bubbie is an energy efficient model of grand parenting- you don't need to have your own children- use local sprouts and shower them with love and attention! While I do have my own grand children, living in other states, I have become a green bubbie to children and adults alike. When I was younger, I was fascinated by very young children- now I find that so many adults seem very young- and the 30 and 40 somethings seem very open to having a green bubbie in their lives!

2. the 'green bubbie' is an identity, and by extension, a special relationship, which you can extend, to choose to confer by choice: For instance, when asked what I do, I began to introduce myself as," I am a green bubbie" which sparked great conversation. When I recognized a kindred spirit, I found myself fully confident in offering, "I would like to be your green bubbie." Of course anyone who I would identify as a kindred spirit jumped at the opportunity. I admit I am somewhat surprised at how easily and with great enthusiasm, these people refer to me as 'green bubbie' in email salutations, phone messages,and in actual real time conversations!
For me it's a bit like being 'fairy godmother/mentor/volunteer life coach/supportive guide" on the frontier of life. An added perk is that I don't have to pay tuition for any of these new people in my life,
3. A green bubbie is a Jewish Environmentalist, of a certain age. My definition of this age is we remember when the world looked like 'paradise, before they put up a parking lot.'

now for the personal SEED This is the time of year I love best as a gardener. The arrival of the Seed Catalogs. Every green bubbie- or wannabe- take note: Sign up the children in your life for their own personal seed catalog. They are free, and they arrive in the mail with the designated names. These full color magazines can be the beginning of countless conversations, activities, projects and plans. Whether you are a green bubbie to a child, a family, or to younger adults- sign them up for their own seed catalog and follow up with gardening tips and suggestions and become a conduit for even greater garden wisdom.
So just as a seed is the beginning of life- think about the relationships you want to nurture, to start or to season, with greetings and deepening connections. Branch out. Let people know you are thinking of them and if they don't garden, you can do, as I do, and invite them to come and work in the garden of your life. It makes for a richer life than I ever imagined.