Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

There’s always something slightly surreal about celebrating Tu BiShvat, the “New Year of the Trees,” in New England. In Israel where our festival calendar evolved, the full moon of midwinter comes at a time when the first almond blossoms are blooming. But here in North Adams, the full moon of Shvat comes when the weather is cold and the nights are long.

That’s especially true this year. 5782 (the new Jewish year that we began in the fall) is a leap year, so we’ll get an extra month after Tu BiShvat which will send our other spring festivals further into the future. But Tu BiShvat comes before that extra month of Adar, and it falls this year on January 16/17. How can we speak authentically of spring in the deepest of Berkshire midwinter?

The Jewish spiritual calendar asks us to see and feel the sap rising even when (or especially when) the world around us is frozen and cold. This year in particular, Tu BiShvat calls us to awareness of internal and spiritual shifts percolating beneath the surface of our world and beneath the surface of our hearts.

The maples may not be ready for us to begin sugaring, but somewhere deep within us is a wellspring of hope and rejuvenation and dreams of what the future might yet hold. Tu BiShvat calls us to honor that kind of sap rising: to dream-into-being the spring that is not yet here, the hope that maybe we can’t yet quite reach, the flowering-forth of a future we can as yet only imagine.

This year Tu BiShvat also falls on Martin Luther King weekend, a time when our vision of our national future can be inspired by the words and deeds of the Reverend Dr. King. Dr. King dared to dream of a kind of racial equity we still haven’t yet lived into fruition. That’s another kind of spiritual sap rising.

At our Zoom Tu BiShvat seder (which we will hold, again, with the members of Temple Beth El of City Island and Rabbi David Markus) we’ll take a journey through the four worlds and the four seasons. We’ll journey from separateness to connection. We’ll hear words from Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail chanted in haftarah trope, the ancient melody our tradition uses for prophetic readings. And we’ll recommit ourselves to caring for our beautiful natural world. I hope you’ll join us at 5pm on Sunday, January 16 on Zoom (the link will be forthcoming in weekly announcements next week).

Here’s to our spiritual sap rising, and to the spring of our deepest dreams.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel

If you would like to schedule a time to meet with Rabbi Rachel, please email her directly using our contact us form.