By Laura Seymour
We are freezing and yet it is time to start talking about planting! Just like on Shemini Atzeret when we start to pray for rain we remind ourselves that we are praying for rain in Israel, on Tu B’Shevat we are buying trees in Israel. However, caring for the earth is not a one-month-a-year expectation. It is our responsibility to care for the earth in all that we do, all the time.
This message from Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin came from the Jewish Grandparents Network. She writes about hearing the story of Honi and the old man planting a carob tree — a familiar one about planting for the future. Rabbi Cardin’s message is so beautifully stated:
Now I am a grandparent and I no longer identify with Honi but with the old man. I know my days are numbered and soon the earth will no longer be mine; but unlike the old man, I know that my generation has not planted and preserved an earth full of plenty for our children. Rather, the earth is worse for the wear under our watch. So besides feeling guilty, I sometimes feel despair….
Our work is the same as it has been for all generations before us: to leave a healthy world full of opportunity to our children. This work has taken on its greatest urgency for us…. We don’t need to tell our grandchildren about climate change or species loss or rising seas — they are teaching us. What we need to do is show them that as citizens of the world, as Jews, as their ancestors, as those who love them, we care, we are listening and we are doing something about it….
And we can show them in almost everything we do. Everything we do leaves an imprint on the resources of this earth — and everything we do leaves an imprint on the souls of our grandchildren. They see us, watch us and in the end, they will judge us.
The messages are clear and you don’t need to have grandchildren — the responsibility is for all of us to be caretakers of the earth. The sages believe that this is a prime directive (for you Trekkies). Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai said: “If you have a sapling in your hand and are told that the Messiah has arrived — plant the sapling and then go to greet him.” Nothing should stop us from doing whatever we can, so make the commitment today for what you can do. Make Tu B’Shevat a year-round celebration! Today more than ever we all need to become shomrim adamah, guardians of the earth.
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.