There are a number of places to draw an environmental ethic from in our Jewish tradition, but one of the central places is in Deuteronomy 20:19-20 which introduces the mitzvah of "bal tashchit." As you read the source text, then the Mishneh Torah's explanation of the larger context of the mitzvah, think about how the ideas presented fit into your own, personal environmental ethic.
On the 15th day of the month of Sh’vat the Jewish community celebrates the holiday of Tu BiSh’vat, or what is commonly known as the “New Year for the Trees”. It is a time of year when we celebrate and honor the sacred and unique connection which exists between Judaism and nature; a time when we remember the biblical teaching that “the tree of the fields is man’s life” (Deuteronomy 20:19).
On Tu Bish'Vat we celebrate the birthday of the trees. This date was designated as the new year for trees in ancient Israel, as the sap was beginning to rise for the fruit crops of the coming year. In the 17th century, Jewish mystics known as Kabbalists created a special seder for this day. To them, this day was the birthday of the Tree of Life itself
We invite you to use this page of Living Talmud to explore texts related to Tu Bish'vat.