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A great multimedia way to learn the parsha, at Torah4Kids


February 2009, Shvat 5769 [email protected]

Written by Nechama Retting, Director of Education for Shlock Rock

Welcome to Shlock Rock Educator’s Newsletter Volume 5. Our goal is to give you some new ideas for teaching about Mitzvot & Middot, Torah, Israel and the Holidays. Visit our website at

Adult Learning: During the month of Shvat we celebrate the holiday Tu B’Shvat, literally meaning the 15th of the month Shvat. We celebrate it as the New Year, or birthday for the trees. It is stated in the Torah that we are not allowed to pick the fruit of a tree until it is 3 years old (the 4th year’s fruit is to be an offering to Hashem). In order to figure out how old a tree is, we begin counting as of Tu B’Shvat (no matter when the tree was planted). In Israel, it is the end of the rainy season as most of the rain falls before the month of Shvat. Winter is coming to an end and the trees are beginning to bloom. Many people plant trees during this time, either on their own or through the JNF (Jewish National Fund). One of the first trees to bloom in Israel is the almond tree (Hashkaydia) which looks similar to cherry blossoms that are popular in the Washington DC area. When the Hashkaydia trees bloom (porachat), it signals the beginning of spring and coincides with the New Year for trees.

The Almond Tree - Hashkaydia

Additionally, this is a great time to learn about the mitzvot of Bal Tashchit (not destroying the Earth) and Tikun Olam (repairing the World). (See Devarim 20 (Parsha Shoftim) and commentaries based on this parsha, also see the Talmud Berachot 52b about wasting food.) The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah #529) said: “The purpose of Bal Tashchit is to teach us to love that which is good and worthwhile and to cling to it, so that good becomes part of us and we will avoid all that is evil and destructive.” Tu B’Shvat is known as an environmental holiday and is a great time to discuss ways to recycle. Thank you to Tobey Greenberg for the ideas and help.

Recommended SHLOCK ROCK songs: “Tu B’Shvat Medley” and “The Green Song” from the CD Shlock Rock for Kids Party Time!, “Tu B’Shvat Seder” from the CD Shlock Rock for Kids Volume 3, We’re in the Band,

“Tu B’Shvat” from the CD Woodshlock, “Choni HaMagil” from the CD Purim Torah. To hear the songs click here or here (then click on the CD, and then the song you want to hear. You can download a song to your computer or IPod for about the same price as a package of seeds!! ).

BONUS: “The Green Song” is available for FREE at – or click here. Special thank you to Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock for the free gift!!!!

Suggested Activities to try with your students or family:

Discussion Ideas/Israel Connection: Discuss what the weather is like in Israel at this time of year. Compare it to what is happening outside in your area. Compare and chart their observations.

Listen to “The Green Song” and discuss the lyrics. How can we “keep our world going strong?” This is a great time to talk about the mitzvot of Bal Tashchit and Tikun Olam with the children. How does this fit in with celebrating Tu B’Shvat. What are some ways we can not destroy the world (or repair the world)? Chart their ideas. This is a great time to discuss different ways to recycle. Here are a few links with different ideas to make things using recycled products: click here, here or here.

Website Suggestion: Check out Canfei Nesharim’s website for other Torah based environmentally friendly ideas. This year Canfei Nesharim is offering a wealth of NEW resources, including FREE colorful haggadot for your Tu B'Shevat Seder; synagogue activity suggestions (with resource sheets) for children, teens, adults and communities; FREE "Appreciation for Creation" wallet cards; "The Trees Sang with Joy," a new Torah teaching for Tu B'Shevat (available for reprinting); electronic greeting cards to share with your loved ones; and the opportunity to plant a tree in our virtual forest OR in the land of Israel. Don't miss this great opportunity to learn and educate your community about our Torah-based responsibility to protect the environment. Check it all out at

Activity: If you did the above discussion idea, make a reward chart for children who follow the ideas the class came up with to repair the world. (i.e. Turn off the lights when no one is in the classroom, use only one paper towel to dry your hands (and only one squirt of soap!), not wasting paper – using scraps or recycled letters for coloring, making sure the tops are back on the markers when we are finished, closing the glue too, plus other recycling in the classroom, etc…) When you have 10 dots on your Bal Tashchit chart, have a party! Share the ideas with your school families!

Books: Green Chagim by Nechama Retting and Tobey Greenberg – Recycle your way through the Jewish Holidays – check out the Torah4kids website here. Mitzvah related: Dov’s Mitzvah by Risa Rotman. This is a story about mitzvah goreret mitzvah from Pirkei Avot (one mitzvah brings on more mitzvot). Tikkun Olam, Fixing the World by Anne Lobock Fenton and G-d’s World by Sylvia Rouss or The Lorax by Dr. Suess, Bones, Buttons, Borscht by Aubrey Davis is a Jewish version of Stone Soup. Or also by Aubrey Davis is Bagels from Benny, Milo and the Magical Stone by Marcus Pfister, or

A Thread of Kindness by Leah Stollar.

Tu B’Shvat related: The Littlest Tree by Sylvia Rouss, Grandpa and Me On Tu B’Shevat by Marji E. Gold-Vukson, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, the story of Choni is also a traditional story to tell. Check out this link for the story and other Tu B’Shvat information – look for where it says “Choni Ha Ma’agal” and “The Original Rip Van Winkle”.

Science: Plant a Havdalah Besamim (spice) herb garden (Basil, rosemary and lavender are very nice!). Or have the children plant some seeds. Have them predict what will happen if they care for the plants, have them predict what will happen if they don’t take care of the plants. Chart the predictions. Take the plants and place them in a window. Water and care for some and leave some of the others separately. Check on them often and chart the results. After a few weeks, go back and show the children the results. What happened to the plants that were watered and cared for? What happened to the plants we didn’t care for? What would happen if we didn’t take care of the earth?

Activity: According to the Talmud (see Adult Learning above), it is a sin to waste food. What can be done with food left over from lunches? Can you start a classroom compost box with any food that is left over from snack time or lunch to benefit an outdoor garden? If you don’t have an outdoor garden, plant one!! Now is a great time to start the seeds inside (while the weather is still cold for most of us – check out Indoor gardening with Gabe) that can be transplanted to an outside garden in a few months. This could even be a Tzedakah garden where the produce gets donated to a local shelter. Check out this fantastic and inspirational article! If you want to receive Gabe Goldman’s manual for Jewish Indoor planting, email me and I will send it to you. Imagine if we all had a Tzedakah garden, how much food could we produce??

Plan a school wide “clean up” day for your shul, playground or a community park. If your school does not recycle, start a recycling program! Be a good role model!

Movement: Pick one of Shlock Rock’s Tu B’Shvat songs and dance! Since our goal is to celebrate the Tree’s birthday and to repair the world one mitzvah at a time, have the children work in pairs or teams to dance to the song. Can they invite another friend to join them? This could also be done like London Bridges, as a freeze dance or with scarves.


• Place some “nature” items is a “feely bag”, such as a twig, leaf, nuts (check to make sure there are no allergies in your school!!), flower, pine cone, acorn, pine needles, etc… Reach in and try and guess what you are feeling (remove an item, can the children figure out what is missing?) or take 2 of each item and try to find the match using just your hands.

• Bring in some fruits grown in Israel to taste, such as: Almonds, Carob, Oranges, Bananas, Figs, Dates, Olives, Grapes and Pomegranates (again check on nut allergies!). Talk to the children about the 7 Species from Israel (described in the Torah – see Devarim 8:8). Compare and contrast the seeds from all the different fruits.

• Have a Tu B’Shvat Seder to taste these fruits, some of which we eat the inside but not the outside (oranges, bananas), some you eat the outside, but not the inside (plums, olives, peaches), and some you eat the inside and outside (strawberries). (See Website Suggestion above for a free Seder resource or click here.)

• Have a birthday party for the Trees! Bake a cake with the kids! I love any excuse for cake, party hats and decorations! Can you use your tzedaka money to buy trees in Israel? JNF I also have a recipe for 7 species Challah, if you’d like the recipe, email me at [email protected].

Craft: Make a texture mural of a forest of trees; do bark rubbings, sponge painting for the leaves, and crumpled tissue paper for the flowers, etc… Can you make a tree using your hands? Paint your hand and forearm with brown paint then make a print on paper, and then add finger print leaves, buds or flowers. Collect branches from outside and glue on tissue paper “flowers” and “leaves” to use as a centerpiece for your Tu B’Shvat Seder.

I like to take a Hershey Bar (it is brown like the trunk of a tree!) and add a Green construction paper top to resemble the top of a tree to send home as a Tu B’Shvat gift to my students. I usually write something like: “Here is a tree that is good to eat, enjoy this tasty Tu B’Shvat treat! Love, Morah Nechama”. It is usually a pretty big hit!  Click here for pareve alternatives.

Tu B’Shvat Game/Math Activity: Create a board game leading the children through a forest (or up a tree) to the Etz Chaim. I glued pictures of trees from Israel onto my game board and wrote things like: Olive Tree – whoops slipped on some oil – move ahead 3 spaces, or Pine Tree – Oh no, got stuck in the pine sap – lose a turn, Fig Tree – name something that rhymes with Fig, Pomegranate Tree – a pomegranate has 613 seeds like there are mitzvot – can you name a mitzvah?


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