Rabbi Johanna Hershenson’s Words of Hope
People used to say hindsight is 20/20 suggesting that we see choices and opportunities more clearly after the fact than we do during a given situation. This year, I am hearing people communicate relief and joy that 2020 is behind us. What a year it was! Happy 2021, friends and family!
This January ends with the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for trees. The rabbis of the Talmud say that at the time of the New Year for trees, the majority of annual rainfall has already fallen in the land of Israel, yielding a healthy, water-logged soil in which to plant new trees.
In modern times, Tu B’Shevat has become a symbol of Labor Zionism that was rooted in cultivating and working the land of Israel as well as an example of Jewish sensitivity to the environment. Early Zionist settlers in Israel began planting new trees not only to restore the ecology of ancient Israel, but as a symbol of renewed growth of the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland. Today some of those forests have been converted back into wetlands as Israelis better understand the ecological systems of the region.
As climate change enters our discourse and impacts choices we make in our households and communities, Jewish environmentalists increasingly experience Tu B’Shevat as an ancient and authentic Jewish “Earth Day” that educates Jews about the Jewish tradition of responsible stewardship of God’s creation, manifested in ecological activism and even an ecological approach to kashrut, kosher eating.
This month, in Temple Beth Tikvah, we will direct our attention to trees, the planet, and issues in sustainability in honor of Tu B’Shevat. Look for information in an adult learning mini-series taught by Rabbi Devorah Marcus, a founding member of Hamsa: Five Congregations Learning Together. Saturday night, January 16, our Havdallah with a Purpose Zoom gathering will invite discussion about how to advocate around climate change in our social action program and offerings. Finally, Friday night, January 29th, we will share an evening of music, poetry, and prose, around the beauty of trees and the earth in our Tu B’Shevat Shirah Zoom gathering.
Maybe you have thoughts or reflections about trees, the beauty of the planet, or sustainability you would like to share. Feel free to call, email, or text Rabbi Johanna Hershenson, Mel Siegel, adult learning coordinator, or open a conversation/share a photo on our Temple Beth Tikvah FaceBook page.