Earth Day

This Shabbat we celebrate Tu B'Shvat, the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, also known as the birthday of the trees.

Tu B'Shvat is not only the birthday of the trees, it is a day set aside to appreciate nature, a day set aside to focus on how we can take better care of our environment.

Caring for the environment has become a trendy concept over the past few years. Secular society has even introduced their own holiday called "Earth Day".

The Midrash in Kohellet Raba 7:28 teaches us that caring for the environment is not a new concept. When God created the first man (Adam), He took him and had him pass before all of the trees in the Garden of Eden and said to him: "Do you see my handiwork, how fine and excellent they are! All that I created was created for you. Be careful not to ruin and destroy my world, for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you."

Unfortunately, even in the beautiful streets of Jerusalem we see garbage strewn around.

There is a movement to keep Jerusalem clean and beautiful. Groups of students even spend their free time cleaning up garbage that was not properly disposed of. I applaud what these students are doing. However, we must raise awareness of the importance of protecting our environment. If we keep cleaning up after those who litter, they will not see a need to stop littering. I recently came across a booklet which listed different opportunities for recycling in Jerusalem. The list included food, clothing, computers, paper, batteries, books, bottles, cans, compost, boxes, tires and furniture.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav used to say "Know that every shepherd has a unique niggun (tune) for each of the grasses and for each place where they herd. For each and every grass has its own song and from the song of the grasses the shepherds compose their songs."

Once Rav Kook was walking in the fields lost deep in thought. The young student with him plucked a leaf from a branch. Rav Kook was visibly shaken by this act. Rav Kook explained: "I never simply pluck a leaf or a blade of grass of any living thing unless I have to. Every part of the vegetable world is singing a song and breathing forth a secret of the divine mystery of creation."

This Tu B'Shvat lets all make an effort to make the world a cleaner, better place to live.