Is A Tu b’Shvat Meditation Ready for Prime Time?
Sometimes I think I want to invent a new reality show. Not that we don’t have enough already. But I think it would be cool to have something along the lines of, Who Wants to Dance with a Survivor? or Xtreme Life Swap Makeover. You know, something that’s a little edgier that what’s out there right now.
It’s kind of ironic that most of our reality shows don’t deal with reality. Nothing about Iraq, nothing about nuclear arms. Instead they’re mostly about dancing, singing, and looking better. I guess some people’s reality is different than mine.
The reality that most of us need to deal with has a lot to do with the color green, at least according to Al Gore and Toyota’s Prius division. Our future problems are not going to concern bad dancing or bad hair or bad furniture. They are going to concern our habitat, our fishbowl of a planet where, so say some pundits, the future is going to be blue unless we see enough red to make it green. (Okay, no one actually put it quite like that, but I’m scheduled to make an appearance on So You Wanna Talk Like a Pundit? and I’m sure I’ll get better with the fancy literary phrases after my makeover.)
Which brings me to this month’s Jewish holiday, Tu b’Shvat. This is such a minor holiday that it doesn’t even have a name. All Tu b’Shvat means is the 15th of the month of Shvat. This is essentially like calling July 13th a holiday named “July 13th” or like Tarzan calling his boy, “Boy.” On the other hand, even though the name is minor, the idea behind it isn’t. Tu b’Shvat is the Jewish Earth Day, the Plant a Tree in Israel Day, the Festival of Al Gore Day. It’s the time to remind us that we should care about the land, the environment, the eco-system, the animals, the air. And that you don’t have be that guy from Into the Wild to care about all that, because these all affect urban clubhoppers and Donald Trump’s apprentices, too.
Since this is a Jewish holiday, a little bit of Bible is in order. In the story of Adam and Eve, mankind starts out in a garden, not in a garage. We all end up in a city by the end of the Bible, but our roots are among the trees.
“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed,”says Genesis 2.8.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” (Genesis 1.26).
Since that was Paradise, we know the “ruling” was a good thing and not a mandate for a meltdown.
Since then, though, more than just migratory birds have gone south. Our “fall” into sin has, all evidence indicates, turned us into probably the only species that self-destructs its own habitats—whether we’re talking about nature or even our own bodies (when was the last time you saw a squirrel smoking?). Truth be told, though, I’m not really a pessimist. I think that I have enough faith in God to believe it when the Bible says there will not be a cataclysmic destruction until The End. And I think I have enough faith to also believe it when the Bible says we still have a responsibility to treat the environment rightly and to live as though nature is a gift on loan, with a responsibility to care for it.
And did I mention that the ultimate symbol of life in the Bible is … a tree? The Tree of Life (Etz Chayim in Hebrew) is a familiar motif in many synagogues, as well as the ultimate gift promised to followers of Jesus, called the Author of Life. And if we are reminded of that each year at Tu b’Shvat, so much the better.
Now if I can only find a reality show that deals with reality…
For more from the perspective of Jewish believers in Jesus, see our Tu b’Shvat page.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.