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Recognizing and Celebrating Both the Potential and the Actual.  

01/25/2024 12:48:36 PM

Jan25

Rabbi Bryan Wexler

Happy Tu B’Shevat!  Yes, today is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which means it is the holiday of Tu B’Shevat.  Tu B’Shevat is the new year, or birthday, of the trees.  Today we celebrate the gift of nature, the beauty of our natural world, and our responsibility to protect it.  Tu B’Shevat can also be understood through the realm of metaphor.  In this light, Tu B’Shevat is not only a perfect reminder to appreciate trees as a natural resource and a source of spiritual inspiration, but it is also a reminder that we should strive to be like a tree by:

o    Connecting with our roots
o    Turning over a new leaf (the way we pledge to start over on both Rosh Hashanah and the secular New Year)
o    Bending before we break
o    Being grounded
o    Enjoying our unique natural beauty
o    Continuing to grow 

One more metaphor: the very date of Tu B’Shevat is a metaphor for what we choose to celebrate. In the Mishna (~200 CE), there’s a debate between Hillel and Shammai about when the new year for the trees should be commemorated. Shammai says it should be the first day of the month of Shevat, when most of the season’s rains have ended and the trees are ready to grow in Israel. Hillel, meanwhile, says it should be the fifteenth of Shevat, when the trees actually blossom. In other words, Shammai is in favor of celebrating the trees at their greatest potential, whereas Hillel wants to celebrate when that potential has come to fruition. Of course, Hillel’s position won out. But because the Mishna records Shammai’s perspective too, we have to acknowledge the validity of both their arguments. Yes, Tu B’Shevat is a holiday that praises growth and development—but there are multiple paths individuals can take to mature. So this Tu B’Shevat, may we each ask: how are we going to help our children, our students, our loved ones, and ourselves grow? How will we both honor their potential while also saving praise for their actual achievements? Tu B’Shevat reminds us of the importance of recognizing and celebrating both the potential and the actual.  In doing so, we help ourselves and others develop and blossom.

Hag Sameah and Shabbat Shalom.
 

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784