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Torah Talk for Parashat B’Shalach

January 17, 2019 by Jake Singer-Beilin (Faculty and Staff)

This week is Shabbat Shirah. On this Shabbat, we read Parashat B’Shalach, a section of the book of Exodus which contains the Song of the Sea – the song that Moses, Miriam, and the Israelites sang when they made the unlikely and miraculous transition from slavery to freedom. Soon after this Shabbat is over, the Jewish community will celebrate the holiday of Tu B’Shvat.

The holiday of Tu B’Shvat honors the trees and all that we receive from them. But look outside. The trees are bare. At this time of year, they do not provide leafy shade or the lovely sound of rustling wind. They do not currently bear sweet fruit to nourish our bodies and souls. We celebrate this holiday in the winter when, arguably, the trees are at their least beautiful, their least useful. That is why this is a holiday about looking toward the future. It is a holiday about hope. Not about what is, but about what can be.

By celebrating this holiday – what some call “Jewish Arbor Day” – in the winter, we are proclaiming that we believe that the trees will come back to life, and that we will once again benefit from their shade, from their fruit, and from their beauty – green in the spring and fiery red-orange in autumn. The holiday of Tu B’Shvat is certainly about the hope we have for rebirth and renewal of the natural landscape, but it is also about the hope we have for ourselves.

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