Happy Tu BiShvat

Happy 2024! I love having two opportunities each year to begin again – first in the fall at Rosh Hashanah, then in the winter with New Year’s Day. Beginning again is a valuable spiritual practice, a reminder that we don’t have to be stuck in what was but rather can cultivate the promise of something new.

Stepping Stones Toward Spring — Tu B'Shvat (15 Shevat): First stirring; Purim (15 Adar): Unmasking spirit; Passover (15 Nissan): Throwing off shackles. Fall's Full Moon Harvest — Sukkot (15 Tishrei): Spiritual harvest.

This morning a friend texted me a graphic showing the five weeks before the winter solstice, and the five weeks thereafter. Along with the image came a short message that read, simply, “We made it!” The literal darkest season of the solar year is behind us: cause for rejoicing indeed.

A full moon in a partly cloudy night sky.

The coldest weather of the year is ahead of us, but the days have already started imperceptibly getting longer. Especially during years like this one, when the winter solstice falls during Chanukah, it can feel a little bit like the increasing light of our candles has called back the increasing light of the sun. We’re nowhere near done with the cold, but we are done with the darkening of the days. From here until the end of June, every day brings more light.

Dear Congregation Beth Israel of the northern Berkshires, Temple Beth-El of City Island, and Hebrew Congregation of Somers,

This year our three communities will join together to celebrate Tu BiShvat, the first step on the journey toward spring. Our Zoom seder (4pm, Sunday 1/31) will take us through the four seasons and the Four Worlds, experienced through the theme of hitkashrut, interconnection. Maybe you know that trees are interconnected in a “wood wide web,” not unlike the world wide web that allows us to connect now during pandemic times. We’ll look to the natural world for inspiration and connectedness: with each other, with our traditions, and with our Source. 

Please RSVP to your rabbi by January 28 so we have an idea of who’s coming and can give a list to the Zoom Angels who will be watching the door / letting people in. 

Share an offering

We’re hoping to incorporate, into our Zoom seder slides, short video clips of the trees and/or the woods and/or the mountains and/or the ocean — the landscapes where each of our communities take root. You are invited to make a short video (ten seconds or so) of the natural world where you are, and share it by January 27 by uploading it to this google drive folder: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1IPHmcKhmkcOmuKk_6nHixXd3zMQZlBXK 

Seder supplies

Here’s a short list of items to have on hand if you can:

  • Juice or wine, enough for four ceremonial cups or sips – ideally some red and some white;
  • A tree fruit with an inedible shell or peel (a banana or an orange, or banana chips, or dried coconut, or any kind of edible nut);
  • A tree fruit with a pit (a peach or plum, a dried apricot or prune, an olive);
  • A tree fruit that is edible all the way through (an apple or pear, fresh or dried; apple chips; dried figs)

And if you can’t find those things, or don’t have them, don’t worry: we’ll provide a path into this experience even without the tangible / taste-able items.

How to join

Please RSVP to your rabbi by January 28 so we have an idea of who’s coming and can give a list to the Zoom Angels who will be watching the door / letting people in. A secure Zoom link will be sent to everyone who registers.

We look so forward to being with you on Zoom soon as we celebrate and welcome the coming spring.

With blessings of connectedness —

Rabbi Rachel, Rabbi David, and Rabbi Shoshana

PS: CBI folks, please also join us for our socially distanced Tu BiShvat winter walk up Stone Hill at 10am on Saturday morning, January 30 — read more here!

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Tree fruits representing different seasons and different “worlds.” Happy Tu BiShvat!

Join us Monday afternoon at 3:30 for our Tu BiShvat seder. (Hopefully you have already sent in your RSVP, as we’ll be setting up chairs and procuring tree fruits and nuts on Monday morning.)

And join us on Friday evening at 6pm for Kabbalat Shabbat services led by Rabbi Rachel. (And please remember that because we will have Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday night, we won’t have Shabbat morning services on Saturday morning.) We’ll bring the week to a close with prayer and song; join us as we welcome the presence of Shabbat into our midst!

This week’s we’re reading parashat Yitro. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s portion, here are a few:

Here’s commentary from Steven Green and Steve Silbert at Builders Blog, a project of Bayit: Building Jewish:

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Hope to see you soon at CBI!