Tu B’Shvat: Jewish Earth Day?
I’ve noticed that in modern times, many people treat Tu B’Shvat as an environmental holiday and use it to promote being eco-friendly. I’m very much into being eco-friendly myself and I believe it’s a Torah value. After all, we have a law, Deuteronomy 20:19-20, that forbids cutting down fruit bearing trees.
But it seems that people celebrate the holiday this way have strayed from its real purpose as being the date that marks when trees become a year older. What are your thoughts about that?
I agree with you. Looking after the beautiful world that Hashem gave us is an obligation and a responsibility. It is often a frustrating and painful experience to see how we, human beings, seem to be doing our best to upset the delicate balance that is our ecosystem. However, having said that, as you write, Tu b’Shvat is not “Jewish Earth Day” per se, but rather an acutely spiritual day full of immeasurable potential.
The Rabbis teach that Tu b’Shvat is the day when new sap starts to rise in the tree, when new life is starting to emerge. Even though we are still in the middle of winter and all looks bleak, cold and lifeless, Tu B’Shevat comes – a day of new life with the promise of rejuvenation.
That is why Tu B’Shevat can be compared to the coming of the Mashiach and the final redemption of mankind. Everything looks bleak and there seems to be no sign of life; we are threatened by increasing assimilation and the loss of Jewish identity; Jewish life seems frozen and moribund. But even at that very moment, the sap is rising. On the surface, you can see no change whatsoever, but precisely at that moment, life secretly and inexorably starts to burgeon anew (see ‘Fruit for the Soul’ by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer in The Jewish Observer, January 1986).
Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team