Caring for the Trees – Part 1

Posted on January 11, 2010

In preparation for Tu B’Shevat, I am pleased to present you with these resources that you can incorporate in your classroom, synagogue, community or family. This is part one of Caring for the Trees and it includes a values discussion, background information and relevant Jewish texts you can use to make Tu B’Shevat more meaningful.

Values Discussion:

Why are trees important?
What do trees do for us?
Do we have a responsibility to plant and protect trees?
Do we have a right to destroy trees to make room for new houses and cities?

Background Information:

Breathable air isn’t just out there; it is constantly being purified by the trees all around us. Trees turn carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Without this process, we would not have air to breathe and would not be able to survive. Furthermore, trees offset carbon, the build up of which contributes to climate change known as global warming, and provide us with lumber, paper, medicines, and shade. We should therefore ensure that there are healthy trees around us and protect forests around the world from unnecessary destruction.

Did You Know?

The amount of oxygen produced by an acre of trees per year equals the amount consumed by 18 people annually. One tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year.
Each tree will offset one ton of carbon emissions over its lifetime.
One acre of trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Shade trees can make buildings up to 20 degrees cooler in the summer.
Tree roots stabilize soil and prevent erosion.
Trees improve water quality by slowing and filtering rain water, as well as protecting aquifers and watersheds.
Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in numbers of trees.
JNF has planted over 240 million saplings covering more than 250,000 acres in Israel.

Relevant Texts:

Genesis 2.10
Adam and Eve are commanded “to till it [a garden] and keep it.”

Deuteronomy 20:19
When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down.

Job 14:7
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-6
I made me great works; I built me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that brings forth trees.

Ecclesiastes 3:2
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
Midrash Aggadah to Judges 20
Whoever destroys something useful is violating the principle, “you shall not be destructive.”

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, #56
“Do not destroy anything” is the first and most general call of God.

These resources should be modified as necessary and can be used all year long. Part two of Caring for the Trees will include suggested activities as well as selected related resources.

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