“Planting a tree” for a happy occasion has become almost a Jewish stereotype, but it really is a huge mitzvah.
The classic way to plant a tree in Israel is through the Jewish National Fund. In over a century, they have planted 250 million trees and helped to revitalize Israel through reforestation, research, land and water management, community building, education, and accessibility. Visit their site to learn more and to plant trees.
And we can take this mitzvah to the whole world:
The Bible forbids chopping down fruit trees in a time of siege (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). In Jewish law (halakhah), this was expanded to a general principle known as Bal Taschit, do not wantonly destroy anything. You could call this the premier environmental mitzvah (good deed, imperative). In modern times, we can do this by following the waste-reduction principles of: reduce, reuse, recycle. not only in our homes, but our businesses, religious communities, and organizations.
Even more, we have to preserve, protect, plant. Our world is threatened by the ravages of deforestation. The Redwood Rabbis were an inspiring example of a group of Jews who organized to courageously protest the clearcutting of ancient Redwood trees. Their example can inspire us to plant and protect trees in our own communities.
Many organizations set out to plant trees, but I’m told that only some do so in a responsible way that restores eco-systems and helps local people. You can plant trees in developing nations responsibly through groups like Trees for the Future. Connecting with that worthy group, a rabbinic colleague recently shared that her congregation has committed to fund 300 “Forest Gardens” in Senegal. You can learn more and join their efforts here.
Featured Image: Redwood Trees, Big Basin, California