This past fall, I strolled along the Wissahickon trail, marveling at the changing colors of the leaves. With every step, the crunch of leaves beneath our feet echoed. Despite the urge to jump and create leaf piles, I refrained, mindful of our environmental footprint— the impact of our actions on nature, a concept often explored by scholars.
The term “environmental footprint” typically carries a negative connotation, prompting efforts to minimize it. However, as I think about Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish holiday marking the horticultural year, celebrated yesterday, I ponder whether our impact should only be seen as negative. Do we not desire a positive legacy for future generations?
Reflecting on this, I recall the age-old tension in our relationship with nature. In the Bible, one creation narrative emphasizes human dominance over the Earth, while another depicts humans as stewards of the Garden of Eden, tasked with caring for it.
Today, I advocate for leaving positive marks, inspired by the tale of Honi the Circle Maker. Honi questioned a man planting a Carob tree, who foresaw its fruit bearing after seventy years. When asked if he would live to enjoy it, the man replied that he might not. However, he planted the tree for his children and grandchildren, continuing the legacy started by his ancestors. Honi’s story underscores the importance of leaving a positive legacy, akin to today’s environmental footprints. Planting trees for future generations, even if we may not enjoy their fruits, symbolizes a profound sense of responsibility.
In the spirit of Tu B’Shvat, I invite you to join us on Sunday for one or both of the events we will be hosting – a Family Celebration and an evening talk about Israel. These engagements provide meaningful conversations about our connection to the environment and the world. Let’s contribute to a positive legacy for generations to come.
Shabbat Shalom, and Happy Tu B’Shvat,
Rabbi Moriah SimonHazani