Image: An arrow in the sand: Forward! Photo by MIH83/Pixabay.

It’s Shabbat Shirah – the Shabbat when we read the triumphant Song of the Sea – and Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees. The confluence of these two is subtle and powerful.

Tu B’Shevat marks the dead of winter. It began as an accounting device, the day to account for the age and produce of the trees, the beginning of a new fiscal year of their accounting. The sages chose this day because the trees look dead to the unschooled eye: no leaves, no blooms, no fruit, just a bare trunk and limbs. It’s the ideal time to sum up the books and start a new year.

Because a new season is on its way: deep within those bare sticks runs the living sap. The trees only appear to be dead. Crack a twig and you can see it. Leaves and fruit are far away, but they will come. To the educated eye, the tree is only dormant; life teems within.

The Torah portion Beshalach tells us of a crisis: the Israelites escape Egypt only to be trapped at water’s edge by Pharaoh and his army. All appears to be lost. Moses nervously assures the people that the Holy One will preserve them, to which the Holy One roars in reply, “Vayisa’oo – get moving!” The famous miracle comes only after the 600,000 move their feet and plunge ahead into the surf without a guarantee.

Both Tu B’shevat and Shabbat Shira mark a moment of apparent death. They describe a moment when all seems to be lost. The farmer and his Israelite ancestor must stir themselves – must answer the call “Vayisa’oo – get moving!” – in steadfast hope of something better to come. Flowers. Fruit. Freedom.

All is not lost.

 

Our darshanim this week:

Tree Bathing! – Rabbi Nina Mizrahi

Into the Wilderness – Rabbi David Ackerman

What’s Rising in You? – Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Turn Around Plan – Rabbi Jordan Parr

Turning – Rabbi Menachem Creditor [VIDEO]

We Are All in the Same Boat – Rabbi Stephen Fuchs

Beating Karma to the Punch – Rabbi Marc Katz

 

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