Trees

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, is remembered as the Biblical character with the longest lifespan: 969 years (Genesis 5:27). Apparently owing to the prodigious dimensions of his age, Methuselah’s name is also used to designate over-sized wine bottles: those containing six litres (203 ounces) and standing 22 inches high.

Also aptly named after Methuselah is a bristlecone pine tree in the White Mountains of California. “Methuselah” is now 4,851 years old… and was thought to be the oldest living organism on Earth until scientists confirmed the age of a neighboring bristlecone at 5,067!

This week’s celebration of Tu B’Shevat (the “New Year of the Trees” – See Rosh Hashanah 1:1) is an opportunity to celebrate the many gifts and blessings we derive from trees (known species numbering over 60,000).

It is customary to celebrate Tu B’Shevat by tasting diverse fruits and sampling a variety of wines. As we do so this Tu B’Shevat, may the legacy of Methuselah inspire us to use all our days and years wisely. Let us remember that, as but temporary stewards of the environment, we have a sacred responsibility to think in the long term… and to act accordingly. May our worthy efforts in this undertaking continue to bear fruit.

And may we remain grateful for the intoxicating beauty of nature.

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee  on Scouting.)

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