Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tu Bishvat: A Day With Great Potential - Tuesday Kavvanah, 2/7/2012

In truth, Tu Bishvat is not a holiday.  It's merely the 15th of the month of Shevat, with no special customs or liturgy or ritual, on which all trees turn one year older, essentially for accounting purposes.  (There is a Tu Bishvat seder that some observe, where fruits and nuts are eaten, but this is a modern innovation with no real basis in classical Jewish texts.)

But if we allow ourselves to re-imagine this day, we might see that Tu Bishvat has the greatest potential as a modern holiday not just for Jews, but for the whole world.  You might say that Tu Bishvat is the original Earth Day, the day on which we remember God's Creation and our relationship with it.  As such, this could be the Jewish holiday that ultimately transcends Judaism to lift up the whole world.

After all, the growing threats of climate change, the lack of adequate water and food for all of humanity, and the abuse of the natural resources with which God has provided us are problems that require global efforts, far beyond the capabilities of individuals.  In remembering the trees on their "birthday" (as my daughter has been taught to call it), we should recall that although change begins at home, it must step outside and join hands with all of the other interlocked pieces of this planet.

Tu Bishvat falls tomorrow, Wednesday, February 8.  It's an opportunity for the Jewish world to remind the wider world that the only way to ensure that our great-grandchildren can appreciate the Earth in the same way that we can is if we all act, if we all garner the will to change our damaging behaviors.  The potential for this day to call us all to task is great; let us take up that challenge with vigor.

So when you step outside tomorrow and see a tree, state these words aloud: 

מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשיךָ ה'. כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשיתָ. מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ
Mah rabu ma'asekha Adonai; kulam behokhmah asita; male'ah ha'aretz qinyanekha.
How manifold Your works, God; with wisdom You fashioned them all; The Earth abounds with Your creations. (Psalm 104:24)

And remember that we are all responsible not just for the trees, but for all the rest of what God has given us.  

Rabbi Seth Adelson

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