Happy Tu B’Shevat
“In These Times”
VOL. 51 NO. 1
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018
Aliza Goland, Executive Director Marcy Goldberg, Director of Education Donna Becker, ECC Director
Sandy Greenstein, President Alan Greenbaum, Rabbi Emeritus
Andrew Straus, Rabbi David Shukiar, Cantor
From the Rabbi’s Desk Tu B’Shevat Zman Hailyanot - Tu b’Shevat, the Time of the Tree
Tu B’Shevat begins on Tuesday Evening, January 30 through Wednesday, January 31, 2018 Long before there was an Arbor Day, there was Tu b’Shevat, on the 15th day of the month of Shevat. We often think of Tu b’Shevat as the birthday of the trees, but that is not how it began. Just as today, in ancient days people had to pay taxes, which were then called tithes. Tithes were paid on agricultural products; and the question became when the fiscal year began, The rabbis set the month of Shevat as the cut-off date, because in Israel, this is when the sap begins to run and the trees start to awaken from their winter slumber before bearing fruit.
fuels for heat and energy, clear forests, fertilize crops, store waste in landfills, raise livestock, and produce and ship industrial products, our earth changes in irrevocable ways. We are seeing a rise in global average temperatures, an increase in sea level, floods, droughts, famine, and disease. 2016 was the hottest year on record and the third consecutive record-breaking year. We are already feeling the effects of a changing climate, and the poor and communities of color consistently bear the biggest burden. As Reform Jews, we have an obligation to the Earth and all of its inhabitants. Our Jewish texts and tradition teach us a dual responsibility to “till and tend” (Genesis 2:15) the earth and to “love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17-18). It is this tradition that leads us to see climate change as more than just an environmental issue. Climate change is an ethical, political, public health, and – above all – a social justice issue. Climate justice is about the real human-felt impacts of a changing environment and the urgency that places upon us to act. It is clear that as individuals, as a nation, and as a world community we must act. It is sad to see the present administration loosening environmental regulations and withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Each of us must ensure that we are environmentally conscious, and we should urge national leaders to make fighting climate change a priority in the United States for our sake, the sake of our children, and the sake of the planet. To learn more about how the Reform Movement is advocating for climate action go to RAC.org, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
In more modern times, Tu b’shevat has become known as the “birthday of the trees.” In Israel, Tu b’Shevat is marked with the planting of trees. In fact, so many trees have been planted that Israel has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world that ended the 20th century with more trees than she had at the beginning of the century. While many Jewish holidays have an ecological element, Tu b’Shevat is the only Jewish holiday wholly focused on nature and the environment. Today our environment is more endangered than ever. Global warming is a fact and scientists tell us that we have a very limited time period in which to reverse the amount of CO2 emmited into our atmosphere
before the earth suffers irreversible consequences. As humans continue to burn fossil
L’Shalom, Rabbi Andrew Straus
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