Today is Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for the trees. This morning, I googled “Jewish” and “Trees” and found over 5000 stories, articles and references connecting trees to Judaism.
Trees may ultimately be the symbol that best represents Judaism. After all, we refer to the Torah as the “Tree of Life”. From planting for future generations, L’dor V’dor, the “Carob tree” story, Torah references and more, we have myriad illustrations of how Trees express our core values as Jews and human beings.
What dawned on me early this morning was the role that trees play in helping us to LISTEN and to SEE. Stand in front of a deciduous tree in a quiet area, close your eyes, and you should be able to tell what time of year it is by the ruffling of leaves. Stand by a tree and notice its leaves or buds. I have several trees in my yard that my kids and I observe EVERY day of the year; when we are quiet and still enough, we can notice a change EVERY day. Is it any different with our lives? Certainly, when I pause, really pause and be present, I can notice my children’s growth EVERY day. They are growing, we are growing. We just need to be still, listen and have the vision to really SEE.
The Shema, the watchword of our faith, means “to listen”. It begins with a shin, which has a tree-like appearance. (Notice Shin art piece made by Hagigah summer 2011).
Perhaps Tu B’Shevat , the New Year of the trees, is another way that Judaism creates “Shabbat” in our lives – a spiritual oasis in time where we are encouraged to meditate on the blessings of nature, our communities, our families, our selves.
At Camp Newman, many of our trees have begun to bud and blossom, signaling just several months away from our summer season, when over 2000 souls experience the magic of Camp, Shabbat and Jewish living at its best.