We celebrated Rosh Hashanah in September, New Years in January, and we just celebrated the “new year of the trees,” also known as Tu Bishvat. A long time ago, this holiday signaled the start of the agricultural cycle. Today, Tu Bishvat has morphed into a nature appreciation day celebrated by planting trees and eating fruit. The celebration doesn’t stop with nature lovers, however. Now more than ever, Tu Bishvat is an important time to pause and appreciate our environment and think about what we can do to preserve it.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is one of the biggest environmental problems at the moment. Loss of biodiversity and ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are just a couple of the devastating effects of this trend. This is the perfect current event to think about during this tree-focused holiday. One way to honor the occasion could be to donate to an organization that supports this cause, such as Rainforest Alliance or Amazon Watch.
Tu Bishvat is also a great time to learn about Jewish efforts to promote sustainability. For example, the Kayam farm at the Pearlstone retreat center aims to connect people with the Jewish value of preserving resources by implementing environmentally-friendly practices. Many Jewish values connect to environmentalism, yet they are by no means at the forefront of the sustainability discussion. This connection can strengthen Jews’ commitment to reducing their footprint.
Finally, taking some time to think about biodiversity would be a great activity with a real connection to the holiday. On Tu Bishvat we eat fruits like pomegranates and figs, which wouldn’t be available if not for biodiversity. With species disappearing by the dozen, it’s important to stay grateful for what we have.
Happy belated Tu Bishvat and happy (almost) spring!