Rabbi Dayle's February 2020 Letter to the Congregation

posted Feb 2, 2020, 3:07 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir
February-Shevat 2020-5780

Dear Leyv Ha-Ir Hevre/Community,

I am writing to you in the heart of winter, gazing out my window at the bare branches of the trees. The shades I can see are mostly brown, grey and black. There is a beauty to the starkness of twigs and limbs, standing in dramatic contrast to the almost colorless sky.

Many people imagine this time of year as a fallow period, when the fecundity of the earth is on pause. Yet, in our Jewish calendar, it is precisely now that we celebrate the New Year of the Trees, Tu Bishvat (the 15th day of the month of Shevat, which began this week). Tu Bishvat, according to our sages, is the time when the sap begins to rise in the trees, when nature is re-awakened and the promise of renewed flowering is at hand.

In the land of Israel, it is easy to see that the earth’s energy is alive and flowing at this season. When my husband David and I spent a week there last winter, I had the opportunity to hike all over the country. Every week, I went with my buddies to a place where wildflowers had just begun to bloom. It was inspiring to see the huge enthusiasm that people of all sorts—Orthodox, secular, Muslim, Christian, elders and schoolchildren—flocked to witness the parade of color and vibrancy of the season. Of course, it made sense to observe a holiday celebrating the Earth and her fruits at that time!

Here in North America, we have to take it on faith that Spring will be here in some number of weeks. We need to cheer ourselves up in times that can be discouraging, both in nature and in our social and political world. The festival of Tu Bishvat reminds us that more is going on than is apparent on the surface. The sap is rising! Within each of us, there is potential waiting to be fulfilled—perhaps our intentions toward kindness are available to be carried out in our daily interactions. Perhaps our desire to give back is calling out to move us to volunteer within Leyv Ha-Ir, or the larger community. And…when ideals dear to us are challenged, perhaps the possibility of coming together in activism is being born.

During this month, may we be reminded that though the trees look barren, the sap is rising, and new growth and beauty are developing.Bivracha–with abundant blessing,

In blessing–bivracha,

Rabbi Dayle