Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Congratulations! You just made it through the 10 darkest weeks!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.

On the Jewish spiritual calendar (which is lunisolar, shaped both by our planet’s orbit around the sun and the waxing and waning moon) we’re poised to rush headlong from winter into spiritual spring.

Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees — when spiritual sap begins to rise to nourish our new growth and creativity for the year to come. Purim, our festival of masking and unmasking — when merriment disguises the deep need to step up and create change. Pesach, the Festival of Freedom — when we gather for seder to retell the story of liberation that shapes us as a people. Full moon after full moon after full moon: stepping-stones of transformation.

Participants in our Tu BiShvat seder may recognize this image as our spiritual roadmap.

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.
As I write these words, the world is still covered with snow, but we know that new growth and potential lie coiled in bulbs and seeds and roots just waiting to grow and bloom. It’s as true in our synagogue community as it is in the outside world. On the surface we’re humming along with weekly Shabbat services and Hebrew school and classes and book discussions as we always do. And beneath that surface / behind the scenes we’re planting the seeds of our future.Our choir director Adam Green is beginning to teach new music for a Yom HaShoah program we hope to hold in the spring. Our acting Education Director Natalie Matus and I are laying the groundwork for a transformative revisioning of our Jewish education program for next fall. What new growth would you like to help us nurture at CBI, whether physical (like helping CBI member Shira Wohlberg tend our land) or metaphysical?

The days are lengthening. Our spring festivals are on the horizon. There couldn’t be a better time to begin to build anew.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel