Just in time, Tu B’Shevat turns our attention to renewal and the possibility of something better

By Student Rabbi Caitlin Brazner

January is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. As the calendar rolls over on our secular New Year, friends and family gather (admittedly, virtually this year) to celebrate and look forward in anticipation to what will be in the months to come.

We set new goals for ourselves, new intentions and resolutions. It is a time of hope and possibilities.

January is also a time for reflection. We think back over the last year and remember all we’ve done and not done. We grapple with regrets; we remember those we’ve lost. While it may be a time for looking forward, so often we find ourselves looking backward as the New Year approaches.

This year is no different, although it has certainly been a hard one. We as a nation have faced bitter political disagreements, a virulent pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes. Our world has felt chaotic, out-of-order, overwhelming.

Unpleasantness reigned during 2020

For many of us, looking back on the previous year brings pain, fear and sadness. We are in desperate need of 2021, of a sense that things are moving forward and that change toward something better is coming.

As December 2020 turns into January 2021, the Jewish month of Tevet becomes Shevat. It is during this month of Shevat that we celebrate Tu B’Shevat.

Originally an agricultural festival, this Jewish Arbor Day equivalent recognizes our deep connection to nature and the cycles of life and renewal happening all around us.

Originally an agricultural festival, this Jewish Arbor Day equivalent recognizes our deep connection to nature and the cycles of life and renewal happening all around us.

Just as the Israeli rainy season gives way to first fruits and the new buds of spring, Tu B’Shevat arrives to help us recognize and appreciate the growth and change taking place in the natural world.

The world bends toward balance and order

As we all sit with the difficult legacy of 2020, Tu B’Shevat invites us to trust in the inevitability of the new year and share the hope it brings for a better tomorrow.

In our evening liturgy we read, “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who speaks the evening into being, … thoughtfully alters the time and changes the seasons, and arranges the stars in their heavenly courses according to plan.” (Ma’ariv Aravim, MT 148).

“Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who speaks the evening into being.”

There is a divine beauty in the delicate balance and order of our world.

This new year, as we strive for normalcy and positivity amidst great challenge, let us be comforted by the wisdom of our tradition: that even in chaos there is order; that the darkest season can be followed by one of light; that cold, wet winters will become warm, sunny springs.

May 2021 be a year of goodness, growth, health and happiness for you and your loved ones.

Shanah Tovah and Tu B’Shevat Sameach!

Student Rabbi Caitlin Brazner will serve UHC Terre Haute during the second half of the 2020-21 academic year.

Featured image of dried fruit and nuts courtesy of Gilabrand, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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