Call me a “Tree Hugger”, but I really believe in this stuff!! Try it: go hug a tree, especially one with some fragrance and loose bark, like a redwood tree. If you are embarrassed, do it alone, where nobody can see you. Close your eyes and sense the wonders of nature and creation through your other senses. Look up. Close your eyes again, keep embracing the tree and focus in on your breath. Judaism has a long and rich history of connecting with nature and trees, in a meditative fashion and in doing so, connecting with God, holiness, sacred life. There is significant research about the benefits of such connections, not only spiritually but for all around health. Science and religion are partners when it comes to the multiple benefits of being outdoors, breathing fresh air, communing with the wilderness.
Today is Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for the trees. This morning, I googled “Jewish” and “Trees” and found over 5000 stories, articles and references connecting trees to Judaism. Trees are one of the great symbols of Judaism. We refer to the Torah as the “Tree of Life”. From planting for future generations, L’dor V’dor, the “Carob tree” story, Torahreferences and more, we have myriad illustrations of how Trees express our core values as Jews and human beings.
Trees teach us such wonderful life lessons, such as helping us to build awareness, sensitivity; to become better listeners and to have better clarity of vision. Stand in front of a deciduous tree in a quiet area, close your eyes, and you should be able to tell what time of year it is by the ruffling of leaves. Stand by a tree and notice its leaves or buds. I have several trees in my yard that my kids and I observe EVERY day of the year; when we are quiet and still enough, we can notice a change EVERY day. Is it any different with our lives? Certainly, when I pause, really pause and be present, I can notice my children’s growth EVERY day. They are growing, we are growing. We just need to be still, listen and have the vision to really SEE. The Shema, the watchword of our faith, means “to listen”. It begins with a shin, which has a tree-like appearance. On top of this all, Trees generate our primary life source – oxygen!
Tu B’Shevat , the New Year of the trees, is another way that Judaism creates “Shabbat” in our lives – a spiritual oasis in time where we are encouraged to meditate on the blessings of nature, our communities, our families, our selves.
At Camp Newman, we emulate many of the lessons bestowed by trees – to listen, feel and appreciate life – through nature, our friends, our community and our selves. Surrounded by thousands of trees, blue sky and 500 acres of wilderness, the setting is ideal. Many of our trees have begun to bud, signaling just several months away from our summer season, when over 2000 souls experience the magic of Camp, Shabbat and Jewish living at its best.
1. – Send a photo or video hugging a tree, along with a blessing for Camp Newman – and enter a raffle to win a director’s jacket!
2. Lists the types of trees found at Camp Newman and the winner will receive a special gift