Winter — The Warmest Season

Posted on January 9, 2019 by Jay Lavroff

The unpredictable weather pattern engulfing the Hillsborough metropolitan area has everyone wondering what’s coming next. We went from a “one day tee shirt, next day parka” autumn to a November blizzard to a 65-degree first day of winter. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting heavier than normal snowfall. And who knows what Punxsutawney Phil will see in February. One thing is certain: it’s going to be cold outside. Further complicating things is the return to standard time and the shortness of the days, which have us waking up and leaving home in the dark and returning in the dark. It’s almost as if we’re living underground. But do not despair! December 22began the lengthening of days, and regardless of what the thermometer says, at Temple Beth-El winter is among the toastiest times of year. How can this be, you ask? Simple. Even if the weather outside is frightful, the closeness of our community, the menschlichkeit we express to one another and the energy and deep meaning of our worship always, as my Grandma Eva used to say, warms the cockles of our hearts. Some great examples of this are Shabbat Shirah, TuBiShvat and our weekly Shabbat worship.

Shabbat Shirah, the beautiful Sabbath of Song, is observed this year on Friday, January 18. The Torah portion is B’shalach, Exodus 13:17 through 17:16, which contains Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea, sung by our people when the Red Sea parted to permit the escape from Pharaoh’s pursuing 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…

This portion also contains the familiar words of the Mi Chamochathat we recite each Shabbat:

Who is like You among the mighty, O God

Who is like You, glorious in holiness

Awesome in praises, doing wonders …

To celebrate Shabbat Shirah, Cantor Emily Pincus, our adult choir Kolot El and the Tefillah Band will enhance our worship with abundant and beautiful music to warm the spirit and elevate the soul. This musical infusion into our worship makes Shabbat Shirah a service you will not want to miss.

Tu BiShvat, the “New Year of the Trees,” occurs each year on the 15th of the month of Shevat. This is one of four new years on the Hebrew calendar. 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.

We celebrate Tu BiShvat with a Seder, during which we pray, study, sing and enjoy a meal featuring fruits singled out in the Torah when praising the bounty of the Holy Land. Our Tu BiShvat Seder will be held this year on Saturday, January 26, at noon, following Shabbat morning services. We will savor the warmth of each other’s company and bask in the glow of this beautiful tradition.

And while Rabbi Gluck will be on sabbatical during January and February, our Shabbat worship will continue to be something you’ll want to experience every week. On Fridays we welcome the Sabbath in prayer and song to help us all wind down from our pressures and routines. On Saturday mornings we have our minyan service and Torah study, which is both an intimate and fulfilling way to celebrate Shabbat. If you’ve never been to one of our Shabbat morning minyan services, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. The lively discussions that are a staple of this worship will leave you wanting more!

So do yourself a favor. Join with your Temple Beth-El family to enjoy Shabbat Shirah, Tu BiShvat and our weekly Shabbat observances.  And feel the warmth from within!


Jay Lavroff


Originally published in the January-February 2019 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.