Tu B’shvat Perspectives

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[Editor's note: Tu B'shvat, the Jewish environmental holiday, helps us understand the religious importance of protecting Earth from the selfishness of capitalism's putting their profit over the well-being of life on this planet. Many thanks to Richard Schwartz for assembling this information. Beyt Tikkun invites you to our Tu B'shvat celebration along with Torah study on January 15--online and free at BeytTikkun.org. This holiday, promoted by the kabbalists of Safed in the 16th century, was used by Zionists to promote giving money to the JNF (Jewish National Fund) to plant trees in Israel. It is only in the past 2 decades that we learned that some of that money was used to fund planting on Palestinian lands taken over by the Israeli government. Many younger Jews in the Jewish Renewal movement, and increasingly in all branches of Judaism, have been transforming this holiday into an occasion for promoting environmental consciousness. At Beyt Tikkun, we use the outlines of the KABBALIST Seder and then focus on its relevance to saving the earth's life support system. As you will see below, Richard Schwartz shows us how environmental consciousness was always part of Judaism.
Below are selections by Tikkun from articles by Richard Schwartz related to Tu B'shvat. We hope you will find some of them of interest. In trying to not repeat we may have made it harder to read as a continuous document, so instead read them as inspiration and possibly for you to use should you decide to create your own Tu B'shvat Seder!
-- Rabbi Michael Lerner, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue]


Tu B'shvat Perspectives

by Richard Schwartz 

Why Is This Night Different? 

One of the highlights of the Passover seder is the recitation of the four questions which consider how the night of Passover differs from all the other nights of the year. Similar questions are appropriate for Tu B’Shvat, because of the many ways that this holiday differs from Passover and all other nights of the year.

  • While four cups of red wine (or grape juice) are drunk at the Passover seder, the four cups drunk at the Tu B’shvat seder vary in color from white to pink to ruby to red.
  • While Passover is a holiday of springtime, Tu B’Shvat considers the changing seasons from winter to autumn, as symbolized by the changing colors of the wine or grape juice, to remind us of God’s promise of renewal and rebirth.
  • While Passover commemorates the redemption of the Israelites, Tu B’Shvat considers the redemption of humanity, as the kabbalists of Safed who inaugurated the Tu B’Shvat seder regarded the eating of the many fruits with appropriate blessings and kavannah (intentions) on Tu B’Shvat as a tikkun (repair) for the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
  • While other Jewish holidays honor or commemorate events and people, Tu B’Shvat honors trees, fruits, and other aspects of nature.
  • While people generally eat whatever fruits are in season, on Tu B’Shvat people try to eat fruits from Israel, especially fruits mentioned in the Torah.
  • While people generally take the environment for granted, on Tu B’Shvat there is an emphasis on Jewish environmental teachings and the proper stewardship of the environment.
  • While people do not generally think about trees in the winter, there is much interest in trees on Tu B’Shvat, although the spring is still months away.
  • While people generally think of Israel as the land of the Bible, as the Jewish people’s ancestral home, and as the modern Jewish homeland, on Tu B’Shvat people think of Israel in terms of its orchards, vineyards, and olive groves.
  • While people generally think of fruit as something to be purchased at a supermarket or produce store, on Tu B’Shvat people think of fruit as tokens of God’s kindness.
  • While people generally try to approach God through prayer, meditation, and study, on Tu B’Shvat people try to reach God by eating fruit, reciting blessings with the proper intentions, and by considering the wonders of God’s creation.
  • While many people eat all kinds of food including meat and dairy products during most Jewish holidays and on most other days, the Tu B’Shvat Seder in which fruits and nuts are eaten, along with the singing of songs and the recitation of Biblical verses related to trees and fruits, is the only sacred meal where only vegetarian, actually vegan, foods are eaten as part of the ritual.
  • While people generally look on the onset of a new year as a time to assess how they have been doing and to consider their hopes for the new year, Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for Trees, when the fate of trees is decided.
  • While most Jewish holidays have a fixed focus, Tu B’Shvat has changed over the years from a holiday that initially marked the division of the year for tithing purposes to one in which successively the eating of fruits, then the planting of trees in Israel, and most recently responses to modern environmental crises have became major parts of the holiday. 

    Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach once quipped that the most important Jewish holidays are the ones that are least celebrated. While there has been increasing interest in Tu B’Shvat recently, this holiday that is so rich in symbolism and important messages for today is still not considered to any great extent by most Jews. Let us hope that this will soon change and that an increased emphasis on Tu B’Shvat and its important lessons will help revitalize Judaism and help shift our precious, but imperiled, planet to a sustainable path.
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Tu B’Shvat and Vegetarianism and Veganism

Tu B’Shvat is the most vegetarian and vegan (henceforth veg*an) of Jewish holidays, because of its many connections to veg*an themes and concepts:

  • The Tu B’Shvat Seder in which fruits and nuts are eaten, along with the singing of songs and the recitation of biblical verses related to trees and fruits, is the only sacred meal where only vegan foods are eaten. This is consistent with the diet in the Garden of Eden, as indicated by God’s first, completely vegan dietary law:

And God said: “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed
which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has 
seed-yielding fruit–to you it shall be for food.”

Genesis1:29
  • The Talmud refers to Tu B’Shvat as the New Year for Trees. It is considered to be the date on which the fate of trees is decided for the coming year. In recent years, one of the prime ways of celebrating Tu B’Shvat, especially in Israel, is through the planting of trees. Veg*ism also reflects a concern for trees. One of the prime reasons for the destruction of tropical rain forests today is to create pasture land and areas to grow feed crops for cattle. To save an estimated 5 cents on each imported quarter-pound fast food hamburger patty, we are destroying forest areas in countries such as Brazil and Costa Rica, where at least half of the world’s species of plants and animals live, and threatening the stability of the world’s climate. It has been estimated that every vegetarian saves an acre of forest per year.
  • Both Tu B’Shvat and veg*ism are connected to today’s environmental concerns. Many contemporary Jews look on Tu B’Shvat as a ‘Jewish Earth Day,’ and use Tu B’Shvat Seders as a chance to discuss how Jewish values can be applied to reduce many of today’s ecological threats. 
  • When God created the world, S/He was able to say, “It is very good” (Genesis 1:31). Everything was in harmony as God had planned, the waters were clean, the air was pure. But what must God think about the world today? What must God think when the rain he sends to nourish our crops is often acid rain due to the many chemicals poured into the air by our industries? when the ozone layer that God provided to separate the heavens from the earth is being depleted at such a rapid rate? when the abundance of species of plants and animals that God created are becoming extinct in tropical rain forests and other threatened habitats, before we are even been able to catalog them? when the fertile soil that God provided is rapidly being depleted and eroded? when the climatic conditions that He designed to meet our needs are threatened by global warming? An ancient midrash (rabbinic teaching) has become all too relevant today:

In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He (God), created the first person, God showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: “See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.”

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28
  • Veg*ism is consistent with important Jewish environmental concern, since modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes to many current environmental problems, including climate change, soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, and the destruction of habitats.
  • Both Tu B’Shvat and veg*ism embody the important teaching that “The earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm. 24:1) and that people are to be stewards of the earth, to see that its produce is available for all God’s children. Property is a sacred trust given by God; it must be used to fulfill God’s purposes. No person has absolute or exclusive control over his or her possessions. The concept that people have custodial care of the earth, as opposed to ownership, is illustrated by this ancient story:

    Two men were fighting over a piece of land. Each claimed ownership and bolstered his claim with apparent proof. To resolve their differences, they agreed to put the case before the rabbi. The rabbi listened but could come to no decision because both seemed to be right. Finally he said, “Since I cannot decide to whom this land belongs, let us ask the land.” He put his ear to the ground and, after a moment, straightened up. “Gentlemen, the land says it belongs to neither of you but that you belong to it.”
  • With their concern about the preservation and expansion of forests and their focus on plant-based foods, both Tu B’Shvat and veg*ism, reflect this important Jewish teaching.
  • Tu B’Shvat and veg*ism both reflect the Torah mandate that we are not to waste or destroy unnecessarily anything of value. It is interesting that this prohibition, called bal tashchit (“you shall not destroy”) is based on concern for fruit-bearing trees, as indicated in the following Torah statement:

When you shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy (lo tashchit) the trees thereof by wielding an ax against them; for you may eat of them but you shall not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged by you? Only the trees of which you know that they are not trees for food, then you may destroy and cut down, that you may build bulwarks against the city that makes war with you, until it fall.

Deuteronomy 20:19-20
  • This prohibition against destroying fruit-bearing trees in time of warfare was extended by the Jewish sages. It is forbidden to cut down even a barren tree or to waste anything if no useful purpose is accomplished (Sefer Ha-Chinuch 530). The sages of the Talmud made a general prohibition against waste: “Whoever breaks vessels or tears garments, or destroys a building, or clogs up a fountain, or destroys food violates the prohibition of bal tashchit” (Kiddushin 32a). In summary, bal tashchit prohibits the destruction, complete or incomplete, direct or indirect, of all objects of potential benefit to people. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch stated that bal tashchit is the first and most general call of God: We are to “regard things as God’s property and use them with a sense of responsibility for wise human purposes. Destroy nothing! Waste nothing!” (Horeb; Chapter 56, #401) He indicates that destruction includes using more things (or things of greater value) than is necessary to obtain one’s aim. (Horeb; Chapter 56, #399) The important Torah mandate of bal tashchit is consistent with vegetarianism, since, compared to plant-based diets, animal-based diets require far more land, water, energy, and other agricultural resources.
  • Tu B’Shvat reflects a concern about future generations.
  • Choni (the rainmaker) was walking along a road when he saw a man planting a carob tree. Choni asked him: “How many years will it take for this tree to yield fruit?” The man answered that it would take seventy years. Choni then asked: “Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat of its fruit?” The man answered: “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planned for me. So I will do the same for my children.” Veg*ism also reflects concern about the future since this diet puts a minimum of strain on the earth and its ecosystems and requires far less water, land, energy, and other scarce agricultural resources than animal-based diets.
  • It is customary to recite Psalm 104, as well as other psalms, on Tu B’Shvat. Psalm 104 indicates how God’s concern and care extends to all creatures, and illustrates that God created the entire earth as a unity, in ecological balance:

    You [God] are the One Who sends forth springs into brooks, that they may run between mountains, To give drink to every beast of the fields; the creatures of the forest quench their thirst. Beside them dwell the fowl of the heavens;…You are God Who waters the mountains from His upper chambers;…You are God Who causes the grass to spring up for the cattle and herb, for the service of man, to bring forth bread from the earth….How manifold are Your works, O Lord! In wisdom have You made them all; the earth is full of Thy property….
  • Veg*ism also reflects concern for animals and all of God’s creation, since for many people it is a refusal to take part in a system that involves the cruel treatment and slaughter of 9 billion farm animals annually in the United States alone, and, as indicated above, that puts so much stress on the earth and its resources.
  • Both Tu B’Shvat and veg*ism are becoming increasingly popular today; Tu B’Shvat because of an increasing interest in and concern about nature and environmental issues, and veg*ism because of increasing concern about health, the treatment of animals, and also the environment and the proper use of natural resources.
  • On Tu B’Shvat, the sap begins to fill the trees and their lives are renewed for another year of blossom and fruit. A shift toward veg*ism means, in a sense, that there is an increased feeling of concern for the earth and all its inhabitants, and there is a renewal of the world’s people’s concerns about more life-sustaining approaches.
  • In 1993, over 1,670 scientists, including 104 Nobel laureates – a majority of the living recipients of the prize in the sciences – signed a “World Scientists’ Warning To Humanity.” Their introduction stated: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.” 
  • The scientists’ analysis discussed threats to the atmosphere, water resources, oceans, soil, living species, and forests. Their warning: “we the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided. 
  • With the world’s ecosystems threatened as never before, it is important that Jews increasingly discover the important ecological messages of Tu B’Shvat. Similarly, it is also urgent that Jews and others recognize that a shift toward veg*ism,,the diet most consistent with Tu B’Shvat, is not only an important individual choice today, but increasingly it is a Jewish imperative since the realities of modern intensive livestock agriculture and the consumption of animal products are inconsistent with many basic Jewish values, as well as a societal imperative, necessary for economic and ecological sustainability.

Preserving the Sacred Environment: A Religious Imperative – A Tu Bishvat Message

Many contemporary Jews look upon Tu Bishvat (January 16 – 17 in 2022) as a Jewish Earth Day, a day for contemplating our ecological heritage – and the multitude of threats it currently faces.

An ancient midrash (rabbinic teaching) has become all too relevant today: 

“In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: “See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.”

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28

Today’s environmental threats can be compared in many ways to the Biblical ten plagues, which appear in the Torah portions read on the Shabbats immediately preceding Tu Bishvat. When we consider the threats to our land, water, and air, pesticides, and other chemical pollutants, resource scarcities, threats to our climate, etc., we can easily enumerate ten modern “plagues.” Unfortunately, like the ancient Pharaoh, our hearts have been hardened, by the greed, materialism, and wastefulness that are at the root of these threats. And, in contrast to the biblical plagues, modern plagues are all occurring simultaneously, and there is no modern Goshen as a refuge, where most of these plagues do not occur. 

The Sacred Environment 

The Talmudic sages express a sense of sanctity toward the environment:

“The atmosphere (air) of the land of Israel makes one wise.” (Baba Batra 158b) They assert that people’s role is to enhance the world as “partners of God in the work of creation.” (Shabbat 10a) The rabbis indicate great concern for preserving the environment and preventing pollution: “It is forbidden to live in a town which has no garden or greenery.” (Kiddushin 4:12; 66d) Threshing floors are to be placed far enough from a town so that the town is not dirtied by chaff carried by winds. (Baba Batra 2:8) Tanneries are to be kept at least 50 cubits from a town and to be placed only on its eastern side, so that odors are not carried by the prevailing winds from the west. (Baba Batra 2:8,9)

“The Earth is the Lord’s” (Psalms 24:1) 

It has become customary to recite Psalms on Tu Bishvat, among them Psalm 104. This Psalm speaks of God’s concern and care extended to all creatures, and illustrates that God created the entire earth as a unity, in ecological balance: 

You make springs gush forth in torrents; they make their way between the hills, giving drink to all the wild beasts; the wild asses slake their thirst. The birds of the sky dwell beside them and sing among the foliage. You water the mountains from Your lofts; the earth is sated from the fruit of Your work. You make the grass grow for the cattle, and herbage for man’s labor, that he may get food out of the earth, wine that cheers the hearts of men, oil that makes the face shine, and bread that sustains man’s life.

Psalm 104: 10 -15

Tu Bishvat is indeed an appropriate time to apply Judaism’s powerful ethic of reverence for God’s creation, conservation and sustainability, to help move our precious, but imperiled, planet onto a sustainable path.

Deuteronomy 20:19, 20

The following message helped convince me that I should be a vegan:

And God said: “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit — to you it shall be for food.”  

Genesis 1:29

From the following I learned that as a Jew I should strive to serve as a positive example:

And they came to Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees; and they encamped here by the waters.  

Deuteronomy 15:27

Rabeynu Bachya saw a much deeper message. He stated that the 12 springs represented the 12 tribes and the 70 palm trees represented the then 70 nations of the world. He stated that just as the 12 springs nourished the 70 palm trees, the 12 tribes (the Jewish people) should serve to “nourish” the world by serving as a good example.

From the following I learned to consider the consequences of my actions on future generations:

While the sage Choni was walking along a road, he saw an old man planting a carob tree. Choni asked him: “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?” “70 years,” replied the man. Choni then asked: “Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat its fruit?” The man answered: “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me. Likewise, I am planting for my children.”

Ta’anis 23b

From the following I learned how important it is to be involved in the natural world:

In order to serve God, one needs access to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature – meadows full of flowers, majestic mountains, flowing rivers. For all these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest of people.

Rabbi Abraham ben Maimonides, cited by Rabbi David E. Stein in A Garden of Choice Fruits, Shomrei Adamah, 1991

From the following I learned the importance of acting on my knowledge and beliefs:

Whoever has more wisdom than deeds is like a tree with many branches but few roots, and the wind shall tear him from the ground… Whoever has more deeds than wisdom is like a tree with more roots than branches, and no hurricane will uproot him from the spot.

Pirke Avot 3:17

From the following I learned the importance of working for a more peaceful world:

And He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide concerning mighty nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken. 

Micah 4:3-5

Last but far from least, from the following I learned how the Torah is a guide to a happy, productive, and fulfilling life:

[The Torah is] a tree of life to those who hold fast to it,  and all who cling to it find happiness. Its ways are ways of pleasantness,  and all its paths are peace.

Proverbs 3: 17-18

Celebrating Tu Bishvat as if Environmental Sustainability Matters 

Since Tu Bishvat, the “New Year for Trees,” has increasingly become a “Jewish Earth Day,” why not use Tu Bishvat Seders as, among other things, a time to consider how we can effectively respond to current environmental crises that threaten all life on the planet? 

The world is rapidly heading toward a climate catastrophe, severe food, water, and energy scarcities, and other environmental disasters. This is a strong consensus of almost all climate scientists science academies worldwide, and virtually all peer-reviewed articles on the issue in respected scientific journals.

The hottest year worldwide since temperature records have been kept in 1880 was in 2020, which tied 2016, which broke records previously set in 2014 and then 2015. Every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous decade. All 21 of the hottest years worldwide have occurred since 1998. 

Polar ice caps, glaciers worldwide, and permafrost are melting faster than the worst-case predictions of climate experts. There has been a recent significant increase in the number and severity of heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods. There have been so many severe climate events in California recently that their governor Jerry Brown declared, “humanity is on a collision course with nature.” Military experts see climate change having a potential multiplier effect for instability, terrorism, and war as tens of millions of desperate, hungry refugees flea from severe climate events.

Everything possible should be done to avert a climate catastrophe and other environmental disasters because if we don’t avert it, nothing else will matter. Saving the global environment should become a central concern for civilization today, and tikkun olam (the healing of the world) should become a major focus for all of Jewish life today. 

Time is running out for efforts to avert the potential catastrophes. Climate experts believe that we may be very close to an irreversible tipping point when climate change will spiral out of control with disastrous consequences. While many climate experts think that 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 is a threshold value for avoiding a climate catastrophe, we reached 400 ppm in 2014 and are experiencing an increase of two to three ppm per year. While climatologists think that an increase of over 2 degrees Celsius would be disastrous, climate experts project that we are on track to have an increase of at least 4 degrees Celsius, unless major changes soon occur. 

Among the many necessary changes, reducing consumption of meat and other animal products is something everyone can do to meaningfully address the problem of climate change. A 2006 UN   old and Agriculture Organization report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” indicated that animal-based agriculture emits more greenhouse gases (GHGs), in CO2 equivalents, than is emitted by all the cars, planes, ships, and other means of transportation worldwide combined. A 2009 cover article in World Watch magazine, “Livestock and Climate Change,” by two environmentalists associated with the World Bank, argued that the livestock sector is responsible for at least 51 percent of all human-induced GHGs. This is largely due to the massive destruction of tropical rain forests to produce pasture land and land to grow feed crops for animals and the emission of methane from farmed animals. During the 20-year periods that methane remains in the atmosphere, it is about. 84 times as potent in causing warming than CO2 per molecule.

Tu Bishvat is an ideal time to start a dietary shift since the Tu Bishvat Seder in which fruits and nuts are eaten, along with the singing of songs and the recitation of Biblical verses related to trees and fruits, is the only sacred meal where only vegetarian, actually vegan, foods are eaten as part of the ritual. Such a shift would be consistent with basic Jewish teachings on protecting human health, treating animals with compassion preserving the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping hungry people. 

Despite all of the above and much more, there is great denial out there, and far from enough is being done to try to avert the potential catastrophes. Most people seem to be “rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, as we head toward a giant iceberg.” 

In response to the above points, Jews, preferably in alliance with others, should play a major role in increasing awareness of the threats and how the application of Jewish values, including a shift toward vegan diets, can make a major difference. This would help show the relevance of Judaism’s eternal teachings and help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path, so we can leave a decent world for future generations years,” replied the man. Choni then asked: “Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat its fruit?” The man answered: “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me. Likewise, I am planting for destructive intent transgresses the command “you must not destroy.” 

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and Wars 6:8,10

Israel is like the date palm, of which none is wasted; its dates are for eating, its lulavim are for blessing; its fronds are for thatching; its fibers are for ropes; its webbing for sieves; its thick trunks for building – so it is with Israel, which contains no waste.

Genesis Rabbah 41

A tree of life to those who hold fast to it, and all who cling to it find happiness. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.

Proverbs 3:17-18

Happy is the man … who delights in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

Psalms 1: 1-3

Rabbi Yaakov Said:

“When A Person Walks On A Journey Reviewing [A Passage Of The Torah], And Interrupts His Study To Remark: ‘How Beautiful Is This Tree! How Beautiful Is This Plowed Field!’ [The Torah] Considers It As If He Were Guilty Of A Mortal Sin.”

(Pirke Avot 3:9)

Judaism is a radical religion, in the best sense of ‘radical,’ with teachings that can help shift our imperilled planet onto a sustainable path.

We Should Recognise God’s Concern and Imitate God’s Positive attributes, like Compassion and Concern

  • "How can a person of flesh and blood follow God? … God, from the very beginning of creation, was occupied before all else with planting, as it is written, “And first of all [mi-kedem, usually translated as “in the East”], the Eternal God planted a Garden in Eden." [Genesis 2:8] "Therefore … occupy yourselves first and foremost with planting." (Leviticus Rabbah 25:3)
  • "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey." (Deuteronomy 8: 7, 8)
  • "The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them." (Ezekiel 34:27-28)
  • "I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia-tree, and the myrtle, and the olive tree; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane-tree, and the fir tree; That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." (Isaiah 41:19)

We Should Recognise the Importance of Trees and Work to Preserve Them

“When you come to the Land [of Israel], plant.”

Leviticus 19:23

God said to the Jews,

“Even though you’ll find the Land filled with every sort of good, don’t say to yourself, ‘Well, since everything’s already here, we can sit back and take it easy.’ No! ‘Plant every kind of fruit tree’). Make sure you plant! Because just as you found trees planted by others, you should plant for your children.” [This reinforces the message in the story of Choni]

Midrash Tanchoma, Kedoshim 8

Rabbi Shimon said,

“The shade spread over us by these trees is so pleasant! We must crown this place with words of Torah.”

Zohar, 2:127a

Shimon bar Yochai taught that “if you are holding a sapling in your hand, and someone says that the Messiah has drawn near, first plant the sapling, and then go and greet the Messiah.” (Avot d’Rebbe Natan 31b)

As former President John F. Kennedy stated: “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”

Recognise How Important Nature Is

In order to serve God, one needs access to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature – meadows full of flowers, majestic mountains, flowing rivers. For all these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest of people.

Rabbi Abraham ben Maimonides, cited by Rabbi David E. Stein in A Garden of Choice Fruits, Shomrei Adamah, 1991

It is hoped that Jews will use these powerful teachings related to trees to lead efforts to help avert a climate catastrophe and other potential environmental disasters and help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.

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