Trees Are Good For You

“For as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people.” (Isaiah 65:22) 

Dear Friends,

Tu BiShvat, the New Year for Trees, arrives this Sunday-Monday, February 5-6. The Tu BiShvat seder is a very special opportunity to find a few mid-winter moments of mindfulness, stillness, and awareness. It is an invitation to celebrate the holiness of our tree-neighbors, to appreciate their sanctity, and to notice our profound spiritual connection to and interdependence with all life on earth.

You can find a treasure of Tu BiShvat holiday resources, and several beautiful Tu BiShvat haggadot, on our website. And while we begin this February with a beautiful Tu BiShvat celebration, we are excited to share a major announcement with you later this month regarding our future as a new merged organization.

But for now, back to trees. A month ago, The Washington Post published an article entitled, “The happiest, least stressful, most meaningful jobs in America”. The author, Andrew Van Dam, worked with a team in order to analyze data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and then rank well-being by industry, looking at levels of happiness, meaning, and stress in each sector. Guess what industry scored at the very top?  Agriculture & Forestry.

Then, they zoomed out to look at which activities—beyond work—rated the highest in these same three areas: happiness, meaning, and stress. Which activities scored highest? Religious & spiritual activities. So it is clearly important to rekindle, nourish, and sustain our connection to land, food, trees, and religion and spirituality.

But it gets better. Behind religion & spirituality, the second-highest ranked activities are exercise & recreation, another activity taking place outside. And what happens when the analysts looked at the data by location to find out where are the happiest places on earth? The winner: Place of worship. Second place: Outdoors.

Forestry forces you to work on a slower time scale. It pushes you to have a generational outlook. 

“There’s a point where you are now planting trees that you are not going to see harvested,” [Leslie Boby, a forestor in Georgia] said. “It speaks to something larger than yourself. … Your work is living on, and someone else will benefit from your efforts in a tangible way.” 

“People are mission-driven,” Boby told us. “They feel that this is an important thing they’re doing, even if the financial rewards are not nearly enough.” 

If only there were some way to combine the top scorers here, to maximize our happiness and meaning while minimizing stress through the interweaving of food and agriculture, trees and forests, religion and spirituality…

We do not need the Bureau of Labor Statistics to appreciate Jewish tradition, but it’s certainly powerful to see how Tu BiShvat sits at the bullseye of what Americans need and want these days.

So wherever you are this weekend, our invitation is simple:

Go outside. Without your phone. Go for a long walk on the earth. Avoid concrete as much as possible. Breathe deeply. Find your favorite tree, or patch of woods, or forest. Breathe with the trees. Notice their length, their strength, their resilience. Sit for a while with your tree-neighbors, sit with them like you would sit with an elder, listen for their advice, notice their wisdom and the example they set for us all. Try sitting with them as if they were your fellow congregant, and together tap into the greater Tree of Life, surrounding us and enlivening us, outside and inside.

“Every part of the vegetable world is singing a song and bringing forth a secret of the divine mystery of creation.”  -Rav Abraham Isaac Kook 

From all of us at Hazon & Pearlstone, Happy Tu BiShvat!

Jakir ManelaChief Executive Officer

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