Plant a Tree: It Can Be a Spiritual Event

On Tu B'Shevat--Jewish Arbor Day--use this ritual to celebrate and sanctify our natural world

Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, falls on February 3, 2007. It has become a time to celebrate and commemorate the environment and environmental protection. Among the activities and rituals that some Jews perform on Tu B'Shevat is planting trees. The following modern tree-planting ceremony is taken from "To Till and To Tend: A Guide to Jewish Environmental Study and Action," published by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. Used with permission.

Leader: We have come together as partners in the joyful and sacred work of creation -- the planting of trees. In our Bible, the tree is a metaphor for the righteous who trust in God and delight in God's teachings. We rejoice today in this planting, offering thanks that this opportunity is ours. The Midrash tells us that "God said to Israel: 'Even if you find the land full of all good things, you should not say, 'We will sit and not plant.' Rather, be diligent to planting. Just as you came and found trees planted by others, you must plant for your children. A person must not say, 'I am old, how many years will I live?' You must not excuse yourself from planting. As you found trees, plant more, even if you are old."

Reader 1: There is an order to this, God's universe, that is beyond our comprehension. Intricate, delicate, embracing, exquisite -- an organic whole more complex than the computer, more profound than the highest tower, more lasting than the mightiest weapon.

All: Only when we stand inside that order can we connect with it, belong to it.

Reader 2: The world of nature was given to us to join with, not to conquer. We enter the world as its caretakers, not as its owners. It is our privilege to be entrusted with its care, with its safekeeping.

All: And only when we keep it safely are we kept in safety, for we are part of the plan, a link in the connectedness of all its seamless parts.

Reader 3: People can sense God's presence in nature. Where can it be found? Here, where lavish nature reminds us of the Garden. Here, where we pause in awe at nature's elegance. Here, where we remember that we stand within that elegance and not outside it. Here, where we gather to plant anew.

Leader: Who is Man, who is Woman?

All: A little lower than angels, entrusted with keeping God's world, with completing the work of creation. The flower, the stream, the chemistry, woman, man: each a tiny part of God's intricate infinity, each connected to all others.

Reader 4: When God created the first human beings, God led them around the Garden of Eden and said: Look at my works! See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake I created them all. Take care not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you. (Taken from the Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13.)

All: Do not destroy it.

Reader 5: Do not permit oil to spill into rivers and oceans, do not destroy the forests, do not poison the groundwater.

Leader: And do not wound your neighbors, for they, too, are part of the interdependent whole.

Continued on page 2: 'first finish your planting...' »

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