Tu B’Shevat: Planting a Seed for the Future

January 27, 2015

Warren Buffet once said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” It’s not a new concept that humans and trees are very similar in, pardon the pun, nature.

In fact, the Torah (Old Testament) has compared man to a tree of the field. I find this analogy spot-on in both the more topical sense of measurable physical growth over time, as well as the figurative notion of the ‘tree of life’ and ‘the family tree’. Buffet’s quote also demonstrates the importance of forward thinking and the significance of being proactive, with an emphasis on the benefits of concern for the future.

It’s fitting that Judaism, a religion that throughout the year highlights an appreciation for nature and fruit (for example, eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah, and celebrating the new harvest on the festival of Sukkot) has an official holiday to remind us that trees provide benefits essential to our existence. We are dependent on trees as our life-support system, which in turn allows us to be productive individuals in our professional and person lives, and thus, literally, enjoy the fruits of our labor.

So I introduce you to Tu B’Shevat, a holiday often regarded as the “birthday for trees” or “New Year for Trees,” and an official marker of the beginning of spring in Israel. Tu B’Shevat commemorates the first blossoming of the trees, and serves as a farewell to the cold harshness of winter in preparation for new life.

Tu B’Shevat is often celebrated by planting trees and seeds, so why not concurrently plant the seeds for a healthy family in order to grow your own family tree? With the same prudence as those progressive folks who planted trees 20 years ago, we now have the responsibility to look after our future family’s health, by screening for preventable genetic diseases. We can’t change our ancestral roots, but we can choose to grow from our past and do something significant to change the course of our future.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” This is an especially relevant metaphor as we all need to realize that we have an immense influence on our futures, and one decision has the capacity to impact generations. One person does have the power to effect change, so as we celebrate the birthday of the trees, let’s keep our own family trees in mind. The simple act of either getting screened yourself or telling a friend or loved one about screening can touch thousands of people for thousands of years.

Who knows, perhaps one day you’ll find yourself sitting under a tree you planted yesterday, enjoying the shade with your healthy new baby in your arms.

Headquartered in Atlanta at Emory University’s Department of Human Genetics, JScreen is a national non-profit offering at-home comprehensive and affordable genetic testing and counseling.

ReproGEN – determines risk for having a child with a genetic disease

CancerGEN – tests for genetic changes that increase risk for many types of cancer

If a person or couples’ risk is elevated, genetic counselors will privately address the results, options and resources to help plan for a healthy future.

JScreen believes that a combination of education, access to state-of-the-art testing technology, and personalized support by qualified medical professionals are key to preventing devastating genetic diseases.