New Year’s Eve may have recently passed, but on the Jewish calendar it is New Year’s all over again! Tomorrow we celebrate Tu Bishvat – the 15th of the Jewish month of Shivat which, according the Talmud, is the ‘Rosh Hashana L’Ilanot’ or the ‘New Year’ for Trees.’ The holiday marks the start of the fruit bearing cycle for trees in the land of Israel, celebrating the transition from winter to spring, and the time period when the sap inside trees is beginning to flow (even though, on the outside, the trees still look dormant in their winter sleep-fest.)
The arrival of Tu Bishvat reminds us of our inherent connection to the natural world. In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were told in the Garden of Eden to be stewards of nature, and to care for the natural world. Nature, we learn from their story, is about more than pretty vistas and resources – it is a Divine creation and valuable all by itself. There is a midrash (story) that says an angel hovers over every blade of grass telling it to grow.
This value is also expressed through the mitzvah (commandment) of ‘Bal Taschit,’ which prohibits against purposeless destruction or wastefulness of nature. According to the Torah, during times of war, the ancient Israelite army was forbidden to cut down the fruit trees around an enemy city to make arms, because it would is considered a form of unnecessary wasting. ‘Bal Taschit’ does not just apply to fruit trees during times of war, but at all times and places, to trees, water, air, and the rest of the natural world.
This year, celebrate Tu Bishvat by eating fruits and nuts – and also through tree centered and environmental service! Here are some ideas to get you started:
Attend a Tu Bishvat Seder or Party like this one that the New York Jewish environemntal organization, Hazon, is throwing – or this one, being hosted by Repair the World grantee-partner Urban Adamah in Berkeley, California.
Plant a tree! What better way to celebrate the holiday of the trees? Plant one in Israel through JNF, or plant one in your own backyard!
Grow something. Get involved with local Jewish farms like Repair the World grantee-partner, Jewish Farm School, Adamah or Kayam Farm.
Think globally, eat locally. Join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program through Hazon, find local farmers markets via Local Harvest, or donate the excess produce you grow in your backyard to Ample Harvest.
Let us know how you’re celebrating the New Year for the Trees by tweeting @repairtheworld!