FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE FOREST
We have begun preparations for the observance of Tu B'shvat on February 4th. For most adults, this holiday, the so-called "Birthday of the Trees" is a cute but insignificant day that passes virtually unnoticed in our lives. But the existence of a day of commemoration and recognition of nature in the ritual cycle of the Jewish year is actually something quite profound.
Tu B'shvat is the formal Jewish Science Day. It is the Jewish Earth Day. It is our Environmental Awareness Day. In looking into the world of trees, we are given direction into scientific research and an approach and philosophy of educating our children to the role of nature in our lives and the responsibilities that we hold in our hands for its protection and preservation. It is one of the most powerful examples where the human being is a partner with God in the ongoing work of creation.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said: Scientific research is an entry into the endless, not a blind alley. Solving one problem, a greater one enters our sight. One answer breeds a multitude of new questions; explanations are merely indications of greater puzzles. Everything hints at something that transcends it; the detail indicates the whole, the whole, its idea, the idea, its mysterious root. What appears to be a center is but a point on the periphery of another center. The totality of a thing is actual infinity.
These are words that direct our program of critical thinking in the sciences. When studying the trees of our homes and neighborhoods, we seek to allow the children to uncover an ongoing and seemingly endless series of question about what trees do, how much and in what variety of ways we need them, and what we must do to protect their place in the world.
|This week I stood in the hallway as the third graders presented their "trees of Jewish values to their class." I listened to the children tell me about how they related their beautiful tree projects to the values in our lives. It was quite obvious that they were building a consciousness that addresses the needs of the world in a cooperative spirit.|
This consciousness will ultimately be about not acting precipitously and selfishly for immediate satisfaction of our needs without at least consideration about where our decisions of today will take us tomorrow.
It has become very clear, very fast, that the world that our children will grow into will have far more complex issues influencing stability than we have ever faced. Being able to think critically, to search for the existence of and meaning in interrelationships, and to appreciate and be driven by the inherent beauty in the unfolding quality of scientific research are the ingredients of becoming a truly successful and contributing member of the society of the coming decades.
Tu B'shvat opens a door which we shall enter together and hopefully emerge from as richer, more sensitive and more knowledgeable individuals, both students, teachers, and parents alike.
Steve Bogad, Head of Day School & Tikvah Center