By snail mail I recently received a letter from an organization called simply, AMERICAN FORESTS (www.americanforests.org). The letter starts off with: “It’s not easy being a tree.” It proceeds to inform us about saving our precious woodlands and also relates that because of the support of people concerned with the environment, they have planted more than 50 million trees since 1990 in public woodlands, in big cities, and in neighborhoods. If you go to their website, you will see that their goal is to plant 3 million trees in 2018.
Then, perhaps coincidentally, Friday evening my husband and I went to synagogue services to celebrate the New Year for the Trees, a lesser-known holiday in Judaism called Tu b’Shevat. (It takes place on the Jewish calendar month called Shevat.) Like Passover (actually derived from The Last Supper and often overlaps with Easter), this tree holiday has a seder (pronounced say-der), which literally means order or procedure, since there is a special order to both these holidays.
(I chose this metal art work of a tree because it was entitled the Tree of Life)
Four glasses of wine are used at both seders, but on this holiday for the trees each cup represents the four seasons. We start with white wine for winter, and keep adding a little red wine with spring and summer, with more red wine than white for the last glass for fall.
For the program on Friday night, we read from an eight-page seder by Rabbi Dennis & Julia Beck-Berman. In their program there is also an emphasis on the environment, and they list the Ten Plagues of our “modern” world. (In the Passover Seder there are also 10 plagues related to Pharaoh’s decision not to let the Jews leave Egypt, but the plagues are not the same as this list below.):
- Acid rain
- Destruction of the rain forests
- Pollution of the oceans, lakes, and rivers
- Pollution of the air
- Creating garbage landfills
- Destruction of the ozone layer
- Extinction of species
- overconsumption of energy
- Apathy to the problems of the planet
Finally, I also received an email from Jewish Vegetarians a couple of days before Friday’s seder and have permission to reproduce the following (excerpted) information and photo from the Jewish Vegetarian website: www.jewishveg.org.
|My P.S. Expecting everyone to become vegetarian is probably unrealistic, but cutting down on animal products would be a step in the right direction to reduce greenhouse emissions.|
|Recipe on their website can be found by going to www.jewishveg.org.|
This holiday of the trees comes in February, because spring is already in progress in Israel. It is one of my favorite holidays, close to Thanksgiving, Passover, and Succoth, because all of them emphasize the importance of food as well as gathering together as a family or community.
I also believe that every spiritual faith has its own agenda for taking care of the earth. This is the one I am most familiar with, because I am Jewish and embrace a (mostly) plant-based diet. Feel free to send comments on what your spiritual practice for the environment involves.