January 10,2011

Judaism's Green Holiday

Posted by Haggadot

Smiley face

Tu Bishvat, otherwise known as the Jewish New Year for the trees, is right around corner. During the Temple period, Tu Bishvat was the first day of the yearly cycle for calculating the age of trees. Today, we plant trees, have Tu Bishvat seders, and think about what it means to celebrate nature. Since the beginnings of 19th century Zionism, Tu Bishvat has become a celebration of the land of Israel. Many Jews outside of Israel donate trees while people in Israel plant them. Even outside of Israel, Tu Bishvat has traditionally been a time for Jews to become more aware of their environment. As a child, I remember visiting the TreePeople, an environmental non-profit in Los Angeles, getting my hands dirty, and learning about and planting trees. In my teenage years, I participated in other tree planting campaigns in the LA area. Many Jewish organizations have JNF (Jewish National Fund) drives during the time immediately preceding Tu Bishvat. This year, as Northern Israel finds itself in the aftermath of the Carmel Fires, these efforts are even more vital than usual. Today, Tu Bishvat is the perfect holiday for our environmentally conscious, “green” mentality. It is a day where we can evaluate our own personal relationship with the physical world and make positive commitments towards being more “friendly to nature.” Do we bring reusable bags to the grocery store? Are we being careful with the amount of paper we use? Are we wasting precious water by not fixing a leak in the sink or letting the water run for too long? Many of us do not need to be reminded to use the blue recycling bin because it has become so normal to us. If we all made an extra effort, in the hopes that other environmentally friendly actions would become the norm as well, the meaning of Tu Bishvat could have far reaching positive consequences.