Maybe it’s spring in Israel, but in our area, Tu b’Shevat found us buried in snow with well below freezing temperatures.
Still, the celebration went forward at MCJC even though we didn’t get to plant trees outdoors as we enjoyed the first warming rays of spring sunshine. And we have some great pictures to show for it! Here we are, singing and dancing with Rabbi Tom — and making bird feeders for our feathered friends.
Here are 10 things to do year-round to celebrate trees and birds and the natural world that surrounds us:
- Take a family walk through the woods — even when it’s filled with snow. Robert Frost thought it was especially beautiful then. You can enjoy it too!
- Try growing fresh veggies from food scraps.
- Keep the faith: warmer days will come. You can get more from your garden when it does get warm enough to plant if you get things started indoors early.
- Enjoy this great Ted Talk about the tiny kingdom of Bhutan, how it is becoming a carbon “sink” for the world.
- Talk about what the Tanach (Jewish Bible) has to say about the environment. When you finish the quotes in this article, follow the links to more material. Family members can take turns tracking down quotes from the Bible and from rabbinic texts, bringing one to each meal to share with the family and discuss.
- Share a “sourced” meal. Ask family members to share in some
detective work, finding out where each food item came from. Where and how was it produced? Were animals involved? How were they treated? Were people involved? Were they respected and pair fairly for their labor? What kind of energy was involved in producing the food item?
- Inventory your home to see how you can reduce food waste.
- Inventory your home to see where you use plastic. How can you reduce the impact of plastic on the environment by using less or repurposing what plastic you do use?
- Read together as a family these two books by forester, Peter Wohlleben: The Hidden Life of Trees and The Inner Life of Animals.
- Conscious choice: it’s a buzz phrase today, but conscious choice is what kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws, are all about. Now we know that what we eat impacts the environment as well. What can you learn together about how food is produced in the U.S. today? What Judaism says about the food we eat? (Hint: it depends). Richard Schwartz, founder of the Jewish Vegetarian Society, JVS.org, has gathered a significant body of material from Tanach and rabbinic texts about vegetarianism and the environment. You can find this material here: The Schwartz Collection on Judaism, Vegetarianism, and Animal Rights and here: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/rabbinic-teachings-on-vegetarianism
These activities all have a common purpose: thoughtful renewal of our relationship to the environment and the food it provides. Great ways to celebrate Tu b’Shevat year-round.