This year Tubishvat (the fifteenth day of the month Shevat), the New Year for the trees, falls on Jan. 25th. This is a relatively unknown holiday but an important and meaningful day in the Jewish holiday cycle. What happens on the fifteenth of Shevat to make it a "new year"? The most common explanation is that this is the time of year when the fruit of the trees begin to form. In Israel, by the fifteenth of Shevat, the majority of the winter rains have fallen and the sap in the trees has risen. Tubishvat was seen as the harbinger of spring - a new year for the growth of trees. It is the yearly time to remember how important it is to take care of our earth and leave it in good shape for our children and our children's children.
The Talmud tells the story of the teacher Honi, who was walking along the road where he saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked " how long before it will bear fruit?" The man answered. "Seventy years." Honi asked, "Are you sure that you will be alive in seventy years to eat from its fruit?" The man answered, "I found this world filled with carob trees. Just as my ancestor planted for me, so shall I plant for my children." (Ta'anit 23a)
This tale reflects the image of trees as a symbol of eternity, because trees live beyond the lifetime of a single human generation. At the same time, the tale shows that for humans, children are our trees, our means of achieving eternity. Thus the story above closes the circle, as parents give the gift of trees to their children.
This year perhaps you might want to do something to support our earth and our environment for the sake of all of our children. Maybe you can join an environmental agency, create an ecological project in your own neighborhood, examine the trees in your own backyard for any necessary care, or plant a tree or a garden.
Most of our teachers collect money for the Jewish National Fund, which is the organization, which plants trees in Israel. Our fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, collects these funds for Tubishvat and sends them to the JNF. Every year for the last 10 years, the Sunday School has planted trees in Israel. If you would like to contribute to our ongoing effort of planting trees in Israel, please send money with your children, but ask them first if their class contributes money to the "little blue box".
Jewish tradition tells us that we do not own this earth. We are merely the caretakers who are here and then are gone. It is our children and our children's children who will be left with what we do to our planet. This Tubishvat, as we commemorate a New Year for trees, please consider doing something to make this world a better place for your children.