Worldwide, the festival of Tu-Be-Shevat, New Year of Trees festival, is celebrated by Jews every year to mark the beginning of spring and the blossoming of fruit trees. Trees are planted, especially by school children, stressing the importance of restoration and re-building of the land. For the Jewish community, New Year of Trees has become a day of celebration and reaffirmation of the necessity of protecting God’s world. Tu-Bi-Shevat comes at precisely the most precarious moment in the cycle of Nature. Jews plant trees and hold a mystic Seder, religious dinner, in which they eat many kinds of fruits to celebrate the renewal of the Trees of Life that sustain all life.
When God created the world, so the Bible tells us, He made order out of primal chaos. The Sun, Moon and stars, plants, animals and ultimately humans, each have been created with a rightful and necessary place in the universe. They were not to encroach on each other. Jewish festivals celebrate, in joy, the cycle of the seasons of Nature. The Rabbi even insists that “He who has denied himself any of the rightful joy of this world is a sinner.”
Reverence for life begins with the recognition that human beings are but one among many species of living beings.
All living beings are God’s sacred creations, endowed with spirit, consciousness and intelligence. We see the results of human depreciation and environment, which has damaged the balance of Nature. Earth is alive but she has changed. The soil is her flesh, the rocks are her bones, and the wind is her breath; trees and grass her hair. She lives, spreads out, and we live on her. When she moves we have an earthquake.
There are many reference in the Bible with regard to God’s beneficence in Nature: “When a tree is wantonly cut down, its voice rings from one end of the earth to the other.” “Be like a tree, because the tree gives shade even to those who cut off its boughs.” A man’s life is sustained by trees. Just as others planted trees for you, please plant trees for the sake of your children.”
This vision has been distorted. Now the earth community’s life is threatened with destruction. In the name of human progress and development, there is devastation of Nature and widespread poverty. The streams and seas that give us life are used as dumps for our waste; the forests which give life are destroyed for commercial gain. The life-giving soil is squandered for profit to benefit a few. We have become alienated from ourselves, from one another and from Nature. In fact, we have become destroyers of Nature instead of becomingits protectors.
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