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A Holiday Devoted to our Planet (Beshalach – 02/04/23)

A Holiday Devoted to our Planet

It’s strange how certain traditions die out while others become renewed. When I was in yeshiva, Tu B’Shevat (the 15th of our current Jewish month, Shevat) was insignificant. Other than skipping certain sad prayers and eating some fruit, the day went unnoticed.

It was only when I interacted with proud Zionist Jews that I discovered that Tu B’Shevat was actually celebrated. With the advent of Israel, obsolete laws connected to the Land and its produce became relevant once more. Tu B’Shevat then became like Israel’s Arbor Day, a day to revel in the rebirth of the Land of Israel and enjoy its fruit.

Celebrating Tu B’Shevat is easy for those dwelling in sunny, temperate Israel. However, when temperatures in the single digits accompanied the 12th and 13th of Shevat, I found it challenging to get into the Tu B’Shevat spirit. On Shabbat, even the trees in my backyard looked cold. In truth, though, the crazy weather our country and the world have been experiencing the past few years only reminds us how important it is to honor trees, our land, and our water supply. So, this year, instead of eating various fruit, I have decided to plant trees instead of eating various fruit. The Nature Conservancy has an initiative to plant a billion trees[1]; you could choose another organization, such as the Jewish National Fund[2], or grow one yourself.

This past Saturday night, I attended a concert at a local synagogue that featured singer and composer, Ellen Allard. She sang one song in honor of Tu B’Shevat titled “For Trees.”[3] The first stanza made me think:

This lovely tree, standing before us

Planted by someone a long time ago

Someone with hope, a hope for tomorrow

With a dream of the future right here in this tree

So many of the trees that benefit us through wood, oxygen, shade, and delicious fruit were planted or seeded in an earlier generation. We’re surviving and thriving due to the diligence of some person or cause that cared about the future. Shouldn’t we show the same care by nurturing and protecting our planet? Last year, I contacted my landscaper about the type of fertilizer and pesticide he used on my lawn. I was thrilled when he replied that he only uses organic products. There are many small but significant measures we can take to improve the health of our planet.

This Tu B’Shevat, when we’re celebrating the gift of trees, let’s take to heart Allard’s message: “a dream of the future right here in this tree,” and make sure our planet is safe and beautiful for our children and the generations to come.

Happy Tu B’Shevat,

R’ Neil




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