January 2019 Message from BAW co-President, Carla Kirschenbaum | Congregation Beth Am

January 2019 Message from BAW co-President, Carla Kirschenbaum

Tu Bishvat -- Jewish Arbor Day

Happy New Year! I hope this message finds you well and anticipating an exciting year ahead. Though January marks the secular new year, Judaism -- never a faith to skimp on holidays -- offers us Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, on January 21. Once a system for planting and tithing, it is otherwise known these days as the Israeli Arbor Day -- the day on which Jews both in Israel and here in the United States demonstrate the values of conservation, afforestation and beautification of the world through the planting of bulbs, flowers and, of course, trees. If you happen to have had a tree planted in your honor in Israel -- as all of Beth Am's B'nei Mitzvah do -- you may feel yourself a little more closely tied to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) this month. Or, if you have planted a tree in someone else's honor in Israel through the Jewish National Fund (JNF), you may feel a little surge of pride to have facilitated this special bond to the land and future of Israel.  

To celebrate Tu Bishvat, rabbis in the 16th century created a special seder for the holiday. Through a festive meal of fruits and wine, we are reminded to reconsider the beauty, power and purpose of God's creation. BAW will once again be holding its annual Tu Bishvat Seder on Tuesday, January 22 and we hope you'll join us for this wonderful evening. (Please make your reservation by January 15.)

In honor of this New Year of the Trees, I invite you to revisit one of the loveliest odes to nature in the English language, Joyce Kilmers' Trees, which affirms the connections we seek on Tu Bishvat.

by Joyce Kilmers

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed.
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day.
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

To which we say, Amen.

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We strive to live as a holy community whose study and practice of Judaism inspires and challenges us to "do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).