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Rabbi Lisa's Message

January 24, 2024

While we’ve been in the thick of winter and all that entails–dark, cold, rainy days–the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat begins this evening (Wednesday, January 24th) and continues through Thursday evening. This signals to us that warmth, light, and change is on the horizon. 

Tu B’Shevat is many things and can bring us a diversity of experiences and ways to celebrate. Most foundationally, Tu B’Shevat is the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat (that is the literal translation) and is the Jewish New Year of the Trees. 

On this day we especially eat fruits that grow in Israel, and often Tu B’Shevat is symbolically presented through the The Seven Species, Shivat Haminim - wheat, dates, grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates, and barley. 

Spiritually, on Tu B’Shevat we relate to God through the beauty and grandeur of the natural world. We understand God as the mysterious force that brings the natural world into being and sustains it through continuous cycles of creation-- life, death, rebirth. Amid the cold and darkness of winter, we affirm our faith that spring will come. 

Tu B’Shevat is also a day to re-dedicate ourselves to stewardship, partnering with God to protect the natural world that sustains us. Many plant trees, along with other plants and varietals. In this way we literally get our hands into the soil, reminding ourselves of our inextricable connection to planet earth.

We learn from our tradition that during this time of year, what looks barren and dark and lifeless (naked trees with no leaves in this cold, rainy time) is actually potent with potential, percolating with life. 

We can follow and learn about this spiritual rhythm through a Tu B’Shevat seder which involves four cups of wine or grape juice (white and red) along with a variety of fruits from four different categories. In 2021, we created our own CBI Tu B’Shevat Haggadah for a seder. We encourage you to explore our haggadah and to consider having your own Tu B’Shevat seder either this year or in the future.  

For wonderful Tu B’Shevat content I encourage you to check out Rabbi Julie Danan’s multimedia materials and resources on Trees in Jewish tradition from the Eitz (Tree) section of her website, Wellsprings of Wisdom

On Tu B’Shevat we are reminded that  everything follows a rhythm. The sap is rising and the buds are ever so slowly beginning to form. It may not be visible, but intuitively we know that from this dormant time comes new life and possibility.

May we hold this truth from the natural world close as we continue to face the incredibly distressing truths in our human world. War, violence, fear, captivity. May hope and light be percolating, even if we cannot see it. May we reach a time of peace and safety for all people, soon and in our days. 

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