Some of my most treasured childhood memories are visiting Rancho San Antonio Nature preserve with my parents and sister. Hearing the rushing sound of the stream, smelling the pungent scent of bay leaves, coming upon a barn owl, seeing a bobcat in the distance, visiting animals at Deer Hollow Farm—all of these memories and more are an intrinsic part of my childhood experience growing up here in the Bay Area.
One particular moment stands out in my memory. During most of our outings, we usually spotted at least one deer, foraging in the woods in the distance. However on one hike, we hadn’t seen any animals—not even a lizard, let alone a deer. My sister was quite young at the time and wasn’t afraid to express her keen disappointment. All hope for her was lost, and the hike hadn’t held up to either of our high standards.
However, as the afternoon faded into dusk and we walked along a dirt path by the creek, something amazing happened. One deer stepped out of the brush about ten meters in front of us to cross over to a nearby hill; then another, and another. By the end, about one dozen deer had nonchalantly glided across our path.
Judaism teaches that we are stewards of the earth, and that it is our responsibility to take care of it and its inhabitants. Hunting for sport is forbidden and in ancient times, Jews were forbidden from cutting down fruit trees to use the wood in times of war, even when it was a matter of life or death.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my sister and I were privileged to grow up in the South Peninsula, an area that is dotted with nature reserves and where deer step out of the brush and cross across a man-made path, unafraid.
Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, is the perfect time to take a step back from our daily lives and remember our responsibility to this planet, stand in awe at the beauty of nature and actively participate in celebrating and preserving it. Here at the OFJCC, we have several events coming up that embrace exactly these values. The upcoming Family Tu B’Shvat Walk in the Park on 2/12, the new “Jewish Sunday School in the Woods,” B’hootz, starting on 3/19 and a Family Hike on 3/5 are further opportunities to join together and celebrate nature.
From a Jewish perspective, respecting the earth has always been an important value, and here at the OFJCC we feel honored and privileged to help you make new memories while enjoying the great outdoors.