Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

Jewish & Environmentalist? Then Tu B’Shvat’s the holiday for YOU!

January 21, 2010

“Tree Cake” by Moomin Bus Rider on

After the joyous clamor of the holidays are over, winter is not the best time of year to live in Central Ohio.  It’s cold and gray 90% of the time.  The trees are all bare (which I think has a certain appeal but it gets a bit depressing looking at all those giant skeletons for months on end).  The birds are mostly down south.  It may be counter-intuitive, but now may be the best time to think about the power of nature to regenerate herself each spring; before the crocuses peek out from the frozen ground, before the birds start building new nests, and before we start replanting our vegetable gardens.

Tu B’Shvat, literally the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat, is the New Year for Trees.  Specifically, the holiday makes reference to trees in Israel.  The date reminds farmers it is time to reset their tithing calculators and set new fruit aside for the hungry.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for us all to consider the role trees play in our lives.  Noone summed this up more succinctly, for people of all ages, than Shel Silverstein in The Giving Tree.

Tu B’Shvat is not only a time to reflect on what trees can do for us, but how they are like us.   Like trees, we need soil, air, water, and sunlight to survive.  Like trees, we have roots, trunks, branches, fruit and seeds.  In what directions will you stretch your roots and branches this year?  What seeds will you sow?  What fruit will you bear?

You might remember raising money to plant trees in JNF forests in Hebrew School around this time of year.  Another great way to celebrate Tu B’Shvat is by participating in a Tu B’Shvat seder.  This is a chance to sing songs, eat fruits and nuts from a wide variety of trees, and reflect on the change of seasons and our relationship to Mother Nature.  This year, consider joining members of OWU Hillel and The Little Minyan (A Reconstructionist Congregation in Columbus) for a Tu B’Shvat seder at the Sheltherhouse in Antrim Park in Columbus on Saturday, January 30th from noon-2pm.  Ride Shares are available.  Contact Jodi at for more information.

In the meantime, you can read lots more about Tu B’Shvat herehere, and elsewhere throughout the world wide web – which, I suppose, is a kind of tree of life in itself.


The Message of Chanukah: Energy Conservation

December 4, 2009

Image: Michael Yosef Robinson

As someone who considers myself an environmentally concerned citizen, I can’t believe I’ve never made this connection before!

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Reconstructionist Shalom Center (Philadelphia, PA) offers a new moral of the Chanukah story, an environmental interpretation of the miracle of the Chanukah lights.   He suggests we consider the idea of one day’s oil serving eight days’ need, as a call for energy conservation. The ancient Jews rebuilt the temple by the light of a single wick.  I consume more energy than that in an hour – driving my car while talking on my cell phone, for example.

This Chanukah, how can we do a better job of stretching our resources?  How might we encourage others to do the same?