HUC-JIR News Digest Masthead

Dear Friends,

This week we will celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat. It is Judaism’s Arbor Day or Earth Day, the “birthday of the trees” and one of the four new years in the Jewish calendar.

The Talmud describes how the rabbis designated this new year of the trees. Even in the midst of a continuing winter, most of the year’s heavy rains had already fallen, determining the end of the past year, and anything grown from then on was considered produce of the next year. This propitious time for planting trees took on an additional, mystical meaning for the kabbalists of Safed, who celebrated this date with a seder of fruits of the land of Israel to release the hidden, divine sparks within nature and human beings.

Thus, Tu B’Shevat evokes our tradition’s belief in both environmental and spiritual renewal. We too feel the glimmering of new beginnings, even at this dark time of winter – a time of unprecedented polarization and pandemic in our country. We find reason for optimism in the protective power of the Covid vaccines and inspiration from an Inauguration that calls for unity, empathy, truth, and a better future for all.

The sparks of hope renew our courage and strength to move forward. As the national youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman recited, while our nation watched the beginning of a new era, “The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D.


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