For the love of nature and trees

Posted on January 1, 2019

Dec/Jan. 2018-2019 Rabbi’s article

I’m most at peace when I’m outside.  I love the swell of the ocean waves, the perspective I get on top of a mountain, the beauty of my flowering plants, and viewing different kinds of trees.  I have a Jacaranda and Mulberry tree out front.  In the late spring, I get a myriad of lavender flowers on the branches of the Jacaranda and then they fall like snowflakes onto my driveway.   The Mulberry tree has lots of leaves that shade part of the front and at its apex, I get to pick its juicy bumpy fruit.  It is so sweet that my friend Ruth comes over to pick at the first harvest.

  Maybe I spend too much time looking at the screen of my phone or computer, but when I’m outside appreciating nature, I feel recharged.  We actually have a minor holiday in Judaism that is designed to connect up with nature and more specifically with trees.  On Monday, January 21, we will celebrate Tu Bishevat, the New Year for the trees.  The name is actually its Hebrew date that translates as the 15th day of Shevat.  In the Talmud, the rabbi’s believed that trees are judged on this day.  Hopefully with enough rainfall, they will blossom in the spring and produce healthy fruit in the summer.  The mystics liked to view Tu BiShevat as an opportunity to connect with the changing seasons, fertility, and God.  For modern Zionists, it’s a chance to plant a tree in Israel as our pioneers did in transforming the desert into the flourishing country it is today.

So here’s how I like to ideal celebrate the New Year for the trees.  I always plant a tree or two in Israel through the Jewish National Fund.  They are $18 dollars and you can do it in honor or memory of a loved one.  http://usa.jnf.org/jnf-tree-planting-center/

I put roasted almonds, dried apricots, dates, figs, and olives out for me and the kids to have a taste of Israel.  If I have time, I plant something new on my property.  And perhaps this year, I’ll treat my tenth graders to a mystical Tu bishevat seder where they will sip white grape juice as it transforms red and nosh on fruits and nuts that represent degrees of holiness.  For sure, on Sunday night, January 20, I’ll be gazing at the sky and hopefully seeing the full moon of Shevat.

There is so much beauty in our world.  There are so many reason to celebrate life, our world, and the incredible trees surrounding us.  May your Tu bishevat be delightful and meaningful.