From Darkness to Light
From Rabbi Levy
It is hard to believe that just a few short months ago, Rabbi Stein and I were beginning our tenure as the rabbis of Temple B’rith Kodesh. But here we are, six months later, completely immersed in the very full schedule at TBK. The winter has taken over and we have already celebrated so many wonderful holidays together. As the winter months drag on, we look forward to the spring and the holidays that come with it.
The Hebrew month of Shevat, which typically falls sometime during January and February, brings an interesting and sometimes forgotten holiday, Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of Shevat. This holiday is often called the “Birthday of the Trees.” Tu B’Shevat is also one of the four holidays we refer to as a New Year. Of course, we know that Rosh Hashanah is the “Head of the Year.” But, Tu B’Shevat is also a New Year, a New Year of the trees. Historically, Tu B’Shevat was the time of year that people paid taxes on their fruit trees. Centuries later, we celebrate Tu B’Shevat with a Seder of fruits, nuts, and wine, all foods that come from trees.
So, why celebrate the New Year of the Trees in the middle of winter, when all of the trees have shed their leaves and stand bare in the cold, gray sky? Traditionally, Shevat was the month that the almond trees in Israel began to bloom and bring some much needed color into the dark winter. We, however, are far from springtime. Looking at the empty trees reminds us that we still have months of cold and snow ahead of us. But perhaps Tu B’Shevat can actually be a reminder of the wonderful warm seasons to come? Perhaps the New Year of the Trees is also a light in the middle of the dark, much like the candles that warmed our hearts during Chanukah?
May this Tu B’Shevat be a reminder to you and your family of the gifts that trees bring to our lives. From food to shelter, trees are constantly giving to us. May we remember to give back to the trees. Please take some time to plant a tree or give tzedakah to an organization that can plant a tree for you. It’s time to do our part and take a stand for trees. Chag Sameach!