A Celebration of our responsibility towards Nature
Judaism has a long-standing tradition of valuing and preserving nature. The natural world is a creation of God – therefore is sacred. This is based on the concept of “bal tashchit,” which prohibits the vicious destruction of natural resources – something deeply ingrained in Jewish law and ethics.
God entrusted humanity with the duty of taking care of the world and all of its resources, according to the Torah. The necessity of safeguarding the environment and natural resources for future generations is likewise emphasized in the Talmud, our Oral Law.Strong emphasis is placed on the idea of “shomrei adamah,” or “Guardians of the Earth,” which calls on Jewish people and communities to take proactive measures to conserve and preserve the natural world – inspired by the story of Genesis, where God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to till it and tend it.
Although many Jewish holidays and rituals have a strong connection to nature, the most outstanding Jewish Celebration of Nature is Tu BiShvat – the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat. This is the festivity which celebrates “the New Year of Trees”, meaning: the renewal of the natural cycle in the Land of Israel, represented by the flowering of the shkediah – the almond tree during the peak of the Israeli winter.
This is a day of great joy in Medinat Israel: children and young Israelis turn en masse to plant trees throughout the length and breadth of the Land of Israel – the most forested country in the world, with a rate of forestation much above the local wood consumption. Tu BiShvat promotes a deep respect for nature and its conservation, and encourages individuals and communities to take active steps to protect and preserve the natural world for future generations.
Of all the beautiful things the National Jewish life brought to the people of Israel in their Land and in all their Diasporas, Tu Bishvat is an example of resignifying and providing new sense to some forgotten traditions that were relevant as long as we lived in the Land of our Inheritance. It did not lose its holy dimension: on the contrary, it deepened it, and gained, too, the benefit of honoring ecology, establishing forests and glades, and bringing back to life the hills and valleys of the Land of Israel… with our own bare hands!
That was the reason why 450 of our finest future educators – the Bekeff Hadrachah Program coming from FACCMA and all its associates in Argentina – enjoyed planting with their bare hands trees in the State of Israel during their one-month educational program in Israel just few weeks ago. This is, undoubtedly, a holy and very practical way to reclaim our Heritage.
Tu BiShvat is an expression of our gratitude for the abundance of nature and a call to action to care for and protect the earth. May we, in this Tu Bishvat, root our souls with our renewed commitment to Nature, and, in particular, the Land of Israel and the State it comprises, for a present filled with a profusion of all manner of fruits and the promise of future growth and development.
Tu BiShvat Sameach!
RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union