Tu B'Shevat's Call to Action

Ever since I arrived in the Pacific Northwest, I promised never to take this region’s natural beauty for granted. I continue to be amazed by the scenery, the rolling hills, the vibrant colors, the foggy mist and even the consistent precipitation. I make it a priority to hike 5 different local trails, for the sake of my physical and psychological health. Getting outside keeps me grounded, reduces my stress and worries and connects me to something much greater than myself.
As a people, we will soon have a chance to celebrate Tu B’Shevat, which falls on January 25. For centuries, we used this holiday to connect ourselves with the land of Israel, but we can also use this holiday to re-connect with nature. How fortunate we are to live on a tiny planet, hurtling through space. We have a responsibility to care for it and protect it, not only for ourselves, but for generations that follow.
Let me share a Tu B’Shevat-related story: “Once Honi was walking along the road when he saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked, ‘How long before it will bear fruit?’ The man answered, ‘seventy years.’ Honi asked, ‘Are you sure that you will be alive in seventy years to eat from its fruit?’ The man answered, ‘I found this world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, so shall I plant for my children.’ ” (Taanit 23a)
This tale places the tree-planter in a continuum of generations: he acknowledges gratitude for those who came before him who ensured he would benefit from nature, and he acts to make sure that future generations will continue to benefit. 
This story also teaches that trees symbolize eternity. When we reflect upon the grandeur of trees, we place our existence in proper perspective. After all, most trees live well beyond the lifetime of a single human generation. One way that we continue to live, long after we have passed away? Through our children and our children’s children. For this reason, the man planted trees not for his own physical needs, but to ensure that his legacy would be passed down from generation to generation.
With Tu B’Shevat, we return to our first encounter with trees. We return to the Garden of Eden, when for a short while, we lived in harmony with nature, not in competition. But then we ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This forever altered our relationship with nature, as we were expelled from the garden.
We read God’s punishment, “Cursed be the ground because of you; by toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you But your food shall be the grasses of the field; by the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground – for from it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust shall you return.” (Gen. 3:17-19)
In the Garden of Eden, symbolically at the dawn of humanity’s existence, we were not mature enough to handle the aftermath of eating from the Tree of Knowledge . But now we know better. We are aware of the damage we have inflicted upon our planet through uncontrolled consumption of fossil fuels and rampant pollution of our environment.
Tu B’Shevat is our call to action to foster a healthier  relationship with our environment and with our world. We can no longer make excuses of ignorance for the damage we have inflicted. Tu B’Shevat calls upon us to do what we can to repair the world.
But herein lies the challenge. How much power do we have to affect change? How can we oppose the might of multi-national fossil fuel companies and government officials denying scientific conclusions?
Here are some ideas: We can vote for politicians who share our values to protect and preserve our environment. We can act to reduce our carbon footprint. We can consume less and recycle more. We can manage our thermostat. We can eat less beef and chicken. We can shop locally. We can reduce our use of plastics. We can fly less. And we can protect local green spaces and parks.
With Tu B’Shevat, let us all act selflessly to fulfill our responsibility to reconnect with our planet and preserve and protect it for generations to come.



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