Happy New Year for the Trees
Tu b’Shevat is the only Jewish holiday that deeply connects us to the environment, to where our food comes from, and to the environment that we live in.
It is an opportunity to reflect on what Jewish tradition teaches us about how we connect to the physical world that we live in and it gives us an opportunity to refresh our commitment to the environmental justice work that is happening in our own country and around the world connected to climate.
As a people, Jews have a history of being nomadic as well as having a homeland. We have lived in many climates and in many different regions around the world over a few thousand years.
These climates and these regions shaped our tradition and who we are as Jews.
Now, we know that we – as human beings – also shape the climates and the lands that we live in.
As we continue to shape our traditions and the climate, I believe that we ought to be guided by the traditions of our ancestors in stewardship, reflection, and connection.
America can feel big and our history can feel long but our actions today and each day have impacts that will be felt in the future.
I first joined the environmental movement in the early 1990’s as a college student in Houston, home to the largest chemical refining complex in North America. I learned that American faith communities were rightly blamed for attitudes toward the earth that were focused on humanity’s role to “subdue” and “dominate.” But as our impact on the environment worsened, faith communities turned around and started to join the growing environmental movement.
Just in the last two decades, American Jews began to participate in, and even help to lead, American environmental movements. As we observe Tu b’Shevat tonight and tomorrow, we should celebrate that inspiring work. And we should recommit, because there is always room to do even more.
This year we have reached out to our friends and partners to learn about how they understand this holiday.
If you haven’t read their earlier Voices pieces, I encourage you to do it now!
From Nigel Savage at Hazon, guides on mindfully reconnecting to the world.
From our friends at Bayit, everything you need to host a Tu b’Shevat seder tonight.
Rabbi Justus Baird is the Dean at Auburn Seminary.