Posted on January 15, 2021 by Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck
One of my favorite things about TuBiShvat is that it portends the arrival of spring. When my family and I lived in Israel, we used to go out to the Carmel Forest near Haifa on TuBiShvat to see the cyclamens and the almond blossoms, the first signs of new life. Even in Israel, which is a more temperate climate than New Jersey, it was still quite cold out on TuBiShvat. Nonetheless, there was new growth to behold.
Here in New Jersey, TuBiShvat comes in the dead of winter. This year it arrives on Jan. 28, making it a challenge to feel that spring is just around the corner. And yet, TuBiShvat, with its focus on trees, reminds us that the forcesof renewal and rebirth in nature are on the move well before they are visible to the eye. By TuBiShvat the sap is already running in the trees, unleashing the vitality that will soon translate into blossoms and new growth.
There is a lesson we can learn from the trees that we can apply to ourselves. We, too, have the capacity to marshal forces within us that will yield renewal. We can rouse inner strength that can generate new vitality even in times of darkness and chill. With the winter solstice behind us, from here on the days will get longer and the light will grow. Like flowers, we can bend toward the light, both physically and metaphorically.
Physically, we can resist the temptation to fall into a winter torpor and rouse our bodies to physical activity – whatever is appropriate to our personal abilities. Fresh air and sunshine are available even when the air is cold, and the outdoors can be safely enjoyed during these times when indoor activities are ill advised. Metaphorically, we can find new growth of the spirit by inclining ourselves toward opportunities for Torah, for stimulating learning and invigorating discussion.
This edition of the Shofar is filled with an array of opportunities for study, prayer, acts of justice, fellowship, and much more. I urge you to join us for the many interesting and exciting programs we will be offering.
Above all, I urge us all to take heart and be of good courage. The darkness will pass, as will the pandemic. Hope will be reborn. Nature is stirring, and we can stir our bodies and spirits along with it. May this be a time of renewed optimism and focus on the good that lies ahead and the good we can do for ourselves and others. May 2021 be a good year, a better year, a year of renewed life and strength.
Rabbi Arnold S. Gluck
Originally published in the January-February 2021 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.