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There are four Rosh Hashanahs, four New Years’, in the Jewish Calendar. The first of Nisan is the Rosh Hashanah for Kings and holidays. The first of Elul is the Rosh Hashanah for tithing animals, ‘though Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon said, “the first of Tishrai is the Rosh Hashanah for tithing animals. The first of Tishrai as we know it is the Rosh Hashanah for years, commemorated by the blowing of the shofar. Shemita, Yovel, for planting and for vegetables. But the Rosh Hashanah we now call attention to is, according to Beit Shammai, the first of Shvat, the Rosh Hashanah for trees.
Much is written about trees in our literature. The Torah starts with a story of two trees, one of knowledge and one of life. Once the tree of knowledge was tasted, humankind forfeited eternity. One could exist as the image of God in one of two ways, and we chose knowledge and free will over God's immortal aspect. The Torah itself, however, has become the vehicle through which we grasp an eternalness, as we call it an “etz hayim; a tree of life for those who cling to it,” and that God “implanted this eternalness” into us by us allowing our souls to imbibe Torah insight, values and law. And like a tree, our Torah knowledge builds rings with study each Shabbat year, layering our understanding and insight with greater maturity and familiarity.
The mystics tell us that the essential being or nature of God, with all of its sfirot (emanations, in Kabbalah) resembles an upside-down tree, with the roots in heaven and the branches moving through God’s seven heavenly attributes, and continuing to branch widely across the mundane plane, touching all humankind.
Jewish thought also considers that we are like a tree. Our tradition turns a question in the Torah, “HaAdam Etz Hasadeh hu” (is a tree like a man?) into a positive statement “A man is indeed like a tree.” How? A man or woman must be grounded, rooted in a faith and tradition so as not to be easily toppled. A man or woman must aspire upward toward the light. A man or woman must branch out in life and acquire both depth and breadth. A person should bear fruit both in their productivity and hopefully by “building a house in Israel.” A person's goods deeds are like foliage and their Torah study like the fragrance of flowers. A person must grow not only in strength and bulk but must also find the resilience of a tree, which bends in the storm.
The celebration of Tu B’shvat has gone beyond trees to a concern for Israel, as well as the ecology of our planet. I warmly invite all congregants, young and old, to partake of the seven species of fruit from Israel and enjoy some pita with our four seder cups. Come celebrate trees, the land of Israel, and learn of our traditional mandate to take responsibility for our planet's health. Our Tu B’shvat Seder this year will take place on Friday night, following our 7:30 pm service February 7. Until then, I leave you with a lovely poem by Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser–
The Tree Knows
Naked and lonely
Bereaved of her children,
The brood of green foliage,
The tree stands in the winter cold
Shaking in the wind.
She bears witness to her faith
That the world will green again.
The storm bends her,
But she remains rooted
In the spot
Where God or man
She knows through the wisdom Read More
imbibed in her flesh
That storms recede,
That spring returns,
That her hard limbs
Will grow soft again,
At the touch of the warmer sun,
And the crown of new foliage
Will mark the renewal
Of her life.
“The almond tree is blooming and the golden sun is shining,
Birds atop each roof announcing the arrival of the festival.
Tu bishvat has arrived (it's) the festival of trees.”
— HaShkadiyah Poraḥat
Hard to be thinking about springtime and blooming trees with snow on the ground, but that’s what the Jewish calendar does: promising us the return of warmth just as we face the doldrums of winter. It may still be gray outside, but Friday February 7th right after Shabbat services (starting at 7:30 PM) we will be having a Tu Bishevat Seder. Come try delicious sweet fruits from Israel as we explore some of the mystic connections of this holiday. Also find out how the song Atzei Zeitim Omdim, ‘Olive Trees are Standing,’ was originally Atzei Shittim Omdim, ‘Acacia Trees are Standing,’ and why this was changed. I’ll give you a hint, your parents were just as immature as you were when they were Religious School-Aged...
I am also pleased to announce that the ENJC Klezmer Band has continued to show promise and will be performing a short selection of songs over Purim, both at the Megillah Reading, Monday March 9th (starting at 7:30 PM) as well as at the Purim Feast on Tuesday March 10th (starting at 5:30 PM).
Happy New Year!
Wow, I can't believe that 2019 is over. Time flies when you are busy. I feel like it was last night that I sat down to work on my Yom Kippur appeal to welcome in the Jewish New Year. Now I am discussing the past and future at calendar year end.
It has been a very interesting year at ENJC. 2019 began the Hazzan Walvick era at ENJC. Hazzan has brought with him tremendous energy, both in the sanctuary and in the building. It is a great feeling when you see that Hazzan and his family care about making ENJC better than the rest.
Please come down and join us for Shabbat services and/or games. Shabbat games have become a popular activity for our membership and we will feature them often. Don't forget we have Souper Shabbat coming on February 1. It would be nice to have good turnout. Who can say no to hot soup on a cold February day?
This past fall we rolled out our ENGAGE programming, led by Sue Kazzaz. The activities have been numerous and diversified, i.e. book clubs, canasta, Mah Jongg, movie night, baking, genealogy or socializing. Some have been well attended, but we are always looking for more to participate.
My New Year's wish would be to have more congregants attend and support our daily minyan. In 2019 our turnout for events was wonderful and I would like to see it grow more in 2020.
Amanda, Danny, Meryl and I wish all a Happy and Healthy New Year, from our family to yours! Read More