The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

Tu B'Shevat

“Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.”

~The Talmud


Tu B’Shevat, or the "New Year of the Trees," is Jewish Arbor Day. The holiday is observed on the 15th (tu) of the Hebrew month of Shevat (this year corresponding to January 31st).  Tu B’Shevat was an agricultural festival, marking the emergence of spring. The holiday has become a tree-planting festival in Israel, in which Israelis and Jews around the world plant trees in honor or in memory of loved ones and friends.


Tu B’Shevat is a holiday that brings us back to nature. After all, this is a time of year when we could easily lose sight of the beauty of nature. The sky is often gray. The days are often short. Tu B’Shevat reminds us that spring is going to happen after all, the blue sky will come back and flowers will bloom again. It is a holiday that hinges on hope and possibility. The tree is a symbol of life; belief in the face of doubt; strength amidst uncertainty.


Naturally, this would be a time for trees to engage in soul-searching - the same way people do on Rosh HaShanah.  So, I offer a tree’s new year checklist:

  • Did I shelter the seedlings that live in my shade so they will grow up to be a next generation like myself?
  • Did I grow towards the sun as a tree should, reaching up higher and higher towards that which I can never grasp, but which nurtures me all the same the more I strive towards it?
  • Did I make sure my roots remain firmly planted in the soil that nurtures them, and did I drop my leaves there in the fall to give back life to that which sustains me?
  • Did I ensure that my fruits were sweet and nourished all that came to enjoy them? Did everyone walk away from me with a smile?
  • Did I bend gently in the wind, accepting what G‑d sends but never breaking or giving up hope?
  • Did I grow in strength and wisdom with each new ring this year?

Come to think of it, not a bad checklist for us humans either!

“As my ancestors planted for me, so too I plant for my children and my children’s children.”

~The Talmud

Rabbi Stuart A. Paris, HaKohen

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Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah