Mendy Kaminker

How Judaism Cured My ‘Plant Blindness’

Do you suffer from “tree blindness?”

You have probably never heard this term before (don’t worry, I also didn’t until a few hours ago!), so let me explain. Tree blindness is an idea that people are more likely to feel connected to animals than plants.

So, let’s say you are going on a hike. During your hike, you will see many different types of plants, and you will also come across a deer. If you are like most people, when you come home, you might remember the deer but remember very little about the different plants you encounter on your way.

I suffer from “plant blindness” because while I know a fair deal about animals, their habitat, food sources, etc., I know very little about trees. Boy, I am glad to see that I am in good company!

I am also glad to be Jewish because, thanks to Judaism, I spent a few minutes thinking about trees, their impact on humanity, and, most importantly, how they can improve my life.

That is because this week, we celebrated the holiday 15 of Shevat, often called “Tu B’Shvat”: “Rosh Hashana for the trees.”

Rosh Hashana for the trees is an important date because it helps us know which fruits are considered Kosher. For example, the Torah forbids us from eating Orlah (fruits of a tree younger than three years). Tu B’Shevat is a crucial date to calculate the age of a tree.

And Rosh Hashana for the trees is important because it makes us stop and think. “A person is like a tree”, we share so much with our leafy friends, and focusing on them will help us become better people.

In honor of this special day, here is an adaptation of a beautiful letter of the Rebbe:

“Most plants, especially trees, have key parts which we can break down into three main categories: the roots, the body of the tree (the trunk, branches, and leaves), and the fruits.

The roots are out of sight, but they’re crucial for the tree’s life. They anchor the tree firmly in the ground and draw in the essentials for its growth.

The body of the tree – the trunk, branches, and leaves – is what we see the most. It’s the main structure of the tree, and over time, it grows thicker and more robust. Looking at the trunk, you can tell how old the tree is.

But the real magic of a tree lies in its fruits. Through its seeds, a tree passes on its legacy, giving birth to new trees for future generations.

This concept relates beautifully to human life. In many ways, we’re like trees. Just as a tree has roots, a body, and fruits, our lives have the same components.

The roots represent our faith. This faith connects us to our origins and sustains us, just like a tree’s roots. Like the tree’s trunk and branches, our knowledge and actions form the visible part of our lives. They grow and strengthen over time, shaped by our learning and deeds.

Finally, our fruits are our impact on others and the world around us. Our actions and influence can plant seeds for a better future, nurturing and inspiring others, just like a tree that bears fruits for the benefit of others.”

As we conclude the week of Tu B’Shvat, here is my wish:

May we always recognize the beautiful presence of trees in our lives, may we always remember the lessons they teach us, and just like the trees, may we continue to grow and bear fruits!

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of
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