Dear Parents and Children,
Jan. 25 — the 15th of Shevat — is the wonderful holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the birthday of the trees.
Most of us have memories of collecting money to plant trees in Israel at this time of year and we continue to plant especially on this “birthday.” There are so many wonderful ways of teaching our children to appreciate the wonder of nature and to learn that the Jewish people have been ecologists and environmentalists since biblical times — commanded by God to care for our earth.
The Torah tells us how the world was created but then goes on to tell us how to protect and preserve the earth. A very important Jewish law is bal tashchit – do not destroy! The Torah tells us we must not destroy and we must not waste. Here are some wonderful Jewish texts on taking care of the earth. (These are taken from Listen to the Trees — Jews and the Earth by Molly Cone: a wonderful resource filled with quotations and stories!)
Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai used to say: “If you have a sapling in your hand and you are told that the Messiah has come, first plant the sapling and then go welcome the Messiah.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 31b)
It is forbidden to live in a town in which there is no garden or greenery. (Jerusalem Talmud, Kodashim 4:12)
When you besiege a city for a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. You may eat from them, but you must not cut them down. (Deuteronomy 20:19)
Whoever destroys anything that could be useful to others breaks the law of bal tashchit. (Babylonian Talmud, Kodashim 32a)
The whole world of humans, animals, fish and birds all depends on one another. All drink the earth’s water, breathe the earth’s air and find their food in what was created on the earth. All share the same destiny. (Tanna de Bei Eliyahu Rabbah 2)
Some special things to do for Tu B’Shevat
1. Plant with your children: Parsley grows well indoors, so start now and you will be ready for Passover.
2. Have a Tu B’Shevat seder! There are many new Tu B’Shevat Haggadot but you can create your own. The 16th-century tradition includes the following:
Four cups of wine: First, enjoy white wine for winter; second, have pink (a little red mixed with a little white) for the first sprouts; third is light red as the first fruits ripen; fourth is all red when all is in full bloom and we give thanks.
Four fruits: first — fruits with outer shell that we cannot eat, but the inside is all delicious (almond); second — fruits with pits, eat all but inside (dates); third – entirely edible (fig); fourth — grains (bread).
With each say a blessing, be sure to taste a new and different fruit for the Sheheheyanu, end with hamotzi and enjoy a delicious meal together.
3. And don’t forget to enjoy nature and read lots of books outside.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Taking care of earth our task
Dear Parents and Children,
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“Whoever destroys anything that could be useful to others breaks the law of bal tashchit. (Babylonian Talmud, Kodashim 32a)”
The reference is inaccurate. That quotation does not appear there.
Also, the tractate of the Talmud is “Kiddushin,” not “Kodashim” (which should be written as Kadoshim, but would still be in error)