Tonight is Tu B’shvat. This is the new year for the trees, and the process of how the date was chosen is fascinating. The assumption is that most of the winter’s rains have fallen, and from this point, the sap deep down in the core of the tree begins to flow, which will lead to flowering and fruiting in the coming months. This moment, undiscernable to the naked eye looking at the barren trees from the outside, signifies a stirring deep inside that will only yield results in the future. What an awesome idea to celebrate!

The Torah declares in Deuteronomy (20:19) that “A person is a tree of the field.” How often are we quick to judge external appearances? When do we really take the time to stop and imagine what is happening deep within another person before passing judgment or making assumptions? If we were able to take pause and give the benefit of the doubt that despite what we may see on the outside (barren, nothing of note, uninteresting and even ugly), there is an entirely different universe unfolding and growing beneath the surface!
Furthermore, this week’s parsha, Beshallach, is the ‘headquarters’ of a number of powerful issues. There is the moment when the Israelites are standing on the shore of the Red Sea with the Egyptians closing in and Moses suggests that prayer is the answer. Gd’s response is surprising: Now is not the time for crying out, Go! This moment is a powerful statement of balancing between trust in Gd and the need to be an active participant. (Exodus 14: 13-15)
This parsha is the ‘headquarters’ of song as the Israelites break into joyous chorus of collective song after crossing the Red Sea. (Exodus 15)
This parsha has the Israelites complaining against Moses and Gd. (Exodus 16:1-4)
This parsha has the introduction of the Manna–the Divine Bread that will sustain the Israelites on their journey towards the Land of Israel (Exodus 16:4-36)
This parsha is also the command to observe Shabbat (Exodus 16:23) in the context of the method of feeding the Israelites the Manna, the seventh day is different and the Manna is not to be collected.
This parsha also has Moses striking the rock to bring out water to the thirsty Israelites. (Exodus 17:1-8)
Lastly, we have the struggle with Amalek. (Exodus 17:8-16)
All of these pivotal moments have a profound impact on the experience of the Israelites within the story, and also in our continued life as Jews throughout the generations. Some of them are immediate, and others are ‘planting the seeds’ for Jewish life far into the future.
May we be blessed to learn this shabbat and tu b’shvat to both be fully in the moment for the experiences and people around us, but also to hold dear the idea that there is something deeper happening at the same time. Especially when it seems unimportant on the outside, there is the potential for great change and growth deep inside.
Happy new year for the trees!
Shabbat shalom,