This week is tu b’Shevat. Literally it means the “15th day of the hebrew month of Shevat.” Since mishanic times it has had a variety of meanings. According to the Mishna it commemorates the new year for trees – the time that a tithe would be calculated for the fruit of trees. The kabbalists instituted the tradition of a Seder to commemorate Tu b’shevat. In modern times, the establishment of the State of Israel emphasized Tu B’shevat as a time to plant trees in Israel. More recently, Tu B’shevat has evolved into an ecological holiday when we enjoy the fruit of the land, and remember our responsibility to be stewards of the environment.
Our role as stewards of the earth is part of what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. In the beginning of Genesis we read Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. (Gen 2:15 NAU) To “cultivate” it is to work the land and to “keep” it is to protect the land. This is an exalted position! In psalm 8 we read What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, (Psa 8:4-6 NAU) While the psalm describes the exalted position of mankind, the text is quoted in the New Covenant to describe that greatest man of all and that is Yeshua the Messiah. As a result of his resurrection from the dead there will be the reality of the messianic kingdom in its fullness when the trees of the field will clap their hands and all of creation will bring glory to God and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
On Tu B’Shevat may we remember our calling to care for this world and may it be a reminder of the redemption of this world that is to come!