By: Assistant Director, Jared Kaminsky
Today is Tu B’Shevat, the birthday of the trees!
Let’s all sing happy birthday (yom huledet sameach), skip around the chadar, and spin a wheel in honour of the trees. As someone who is new to camp, I’m so excited to be in such a beautiful place surrounded by so many trees. This summer I’ll tell you about all the amazing trees that live with us and what we can do to protect them. Trees give us so much, including:
-food for people and animals (fruit, berries, and nuts)
-clean air (one large tree can provide a day’s worth of oxygen for four people)
-preventing soil erosion and water pollution
-shade that cools us on a hot summer day
-shelter for wildlife
-beautifying our camp
-medicine (1 in 4 pharmaceutical products is plant based)
What is Tu B’Shevat?
According to the Torah, fruit trees cannot be eaten during their first 3 years of life. During the 4th year fruit is supposed to be given to g-d and in the 5th year we can enjoy fruit. By marking the trees birthday on Tu B’Shevat, we can know when a tree turns one year older.
In the 1600’s, the tradition changed to observe a Tu B’Shevat Seder where we eat the fruits of Israel which have a symbolic meaning. Through eating fruits and saying special blessings, humans are brought in closer spiritual connection with the earth.
Tu B’Shevat has never been more vital than it is today. Deforestation is contributing to climate change and loss of biodiversity. Our environment is in a state of crisis and we must respond. As a Jewish community, we have a responsibility towards tikkun olam (repairing the earth). The commandment of bal tashchit – do not destroy or waste – is central to our Jewish environmental ethic. We are forbidden to waste and be mindful about our consumption in order to create a healthier more balanced world.
Today is an opportunity to give gratitude to the trees and reflect on your own environmental practices. This “Ecology check List” comes from Hazon (hazon.org) and includes many of the things you can do to care for the earth. Put a check next to the things you already do, and a star next to the things you will do as your Tu B’Shevat resolution.
______Turn off the water while you brush your teeth
______Separate your garbage into recycling, composting & true trash
______Turn off lights when leaving a room
______Take short showers
______Use the second side of school papers and memos for scrap paper
______When hiking and visiting parks, stay on marked trails
______Travel by bicycle and public transportation whenever possible
______Eat less red meat
______Plant trees in your yard or neighbourhood
______Volunteer for an environmental organization
______Eat organic food
______Grow some of your own fruits and vegetables
______Buy printer paper made from 100% post-consumer waste
In just a few months, we will be back at camp together in nature surrounded by trees! We are sending our love, blessings, and birthday greetings to the trees who are hibernating through the winter.