The Warmest Time of the Year

Posted on January 14, 2018 by Jay Lavroff

During the first week of December I had the pleasure of attending the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Boston. You’re going to read quite a bit about the Biennial elsewhere in this edition of the Shofar, so rather than “pile on” to that subject, I’d like to talk about how warm it is. That may seem like an odd statement, especially since we are in the middle of a deep freeze that has kept the mercury below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for what seems like forever. To further complicate matters, the return to standard time and the shortness of the days has us leaving home in the dark and returning in the dark. It’s as if we’re living underground. But do not despair! December 22 began the lengthening of days, and regardless of what the thermometer says, at Temple Beth-El, this is one of the warmest times of the year. How can this be, you ask? Simple: Shabbat Shirah, Tu BiShvat and Purim.

Shabbat Shirah, the beautiful Sabbath of song, occurs this year on Friday, January 26. The Torah portion for this Shabbat is Beshalach, Exodus 13:17 through 17:16. This parsha contains the familiar words of Mi Chamocha, as well as the Song of the Sea, sung by the Children of Israel when the Red Sea parted to allow them to escape Pharaoh’s army. The words of this passage describe the incredible event of our deliverance:

We will sing to God, for God has triumphed gloriously

The horse and his rider has God thrown into the sea

God is my strength and song, God is my salvation

This is my God, whom I will praise

My father’s God, whom I will exalt …


With the blast of Your nostrils the waters were piled up

The floods stood upright like a heap

The depths were congealed in the heart of the sea…

 We celebrate Shabbat Shirah with the talents of Cantor Emily Pincus, our adult choir Kolot El, and the Tefillah Band. Through their talents they enhance our worship with abundant and beautiful music that warms the soul and elevates the spirit. Do yourself a favor and attend services on Shabbat Shirah.

Tu BiShvat, the “New Year of the Trees,” occurs each year on the 15th of the month of Shevat. Tu BiShvat marks the end of the rainy season in Israel, when the earliest-blooming trees shake off the cold and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

To observe Tu BiShvat we hold a seder, during which we eat several types of fruit. Among the fruits we eat are those singled out in the Torah when praising the bounty of the Holy Land, including grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Our Tu BiShvat seder will be held this year on Saturday, February 3, at noon, following Shabbat morning service. We will pray, learn, sing and (of course) eat together, enjoying the warmth of each other’s company and basking in the glow of our beautiful community. Further details about the seder are found here in the Shofar , and will be publicized elsewhere, too.

And finally, there is the very warm silliness and celebration of Purim. Purim arrives on the 14th of Adar (which this year is the evening of February 28). We read the Megillah Esther, which tells the story of Esther’s bravery in foiling Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jews. The Megillah instructs that we observe Purim with “days of feasting and gladness, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor.” (Megillah Esther, 9:1-22). And so, in addition to the Megillah reading, we eat hamantaschen, wear costumes, give shalach manot and make noise with our groggers. The overall joy and zaniness of Purim makes it a holiday that Jews of all ages can warmly embrace. Please join us on Wednesday, February 28 at 7:00 p.m. as Rabbi Gluck and Cantor Pincus lead us in the Megillah reading, and a cast of thousands performs Temple Beth El’s internationally famous Purim Spiel. Our Purim celebration is guaranteed to “warm the cockles of your heart.”

Come celebrate Shabbat Shirah, Tu BiShvat and Purim and experience the warmth from within!


Jay Lavroff

Originally published in the January-February 2018 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.