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Happy New Year

The Mishnah teaches us of four new years.  One of those is the fifteeth day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, which happens to be today. 

The festival of Tu B’Shvat is known as a new year of the trees.  Many analogies are drawn between people and trees.  The strength and endurance, reproductive qualities, the sustentance and the beauty of a tree are all qualities that we seek to appreciate and learn from.  Every tree with a seed bearing fruit was placed into the Garden of Eden.  We call our Torah the Aitz Chaim Hi, a tree of life to those who hold by its ways. 

Tonight in Perth I was at Dianella Shule.  There were a large crowd of youthful people running activities and celebrating the religious significance of Tu Bsvhat.  There were songs, talks, a traditional Seder (eating of particular fruits) and an audio visual show. To my knowledge, outside of this event and activities at Carmel School, this year there has been little else in the way of public recognition of this important day within the Perth Jewish community.   There was JNF Green Sunday, but little is done to link the promotion of this fundraising effort with the religious significance of the day.

The joy of Tu’ bshvat was somewhat muted this year for other reasons.  Trees sustain life.  When we destroy trees, we destroy life.  This holds literally and metaphorically.  Many of us have seen the devestating pictures of burning forest and the tragic loss of life that has occured in the past few days in Victoria.  Perth is also on high alert for bush fires all this week.  It is beyond comprehension to try and understand how or why these human initiated tragedies occur.  Our heartfelt sympathy and support stands with all those who are effected.  Who could imagine being engulfed in a firery inferno with no chance of escape?  Who could imagine losing all of ones possessions due to a mindless act of vandalism? 

This Tu Bshvat the sanctity of life, and particularly the natural environment and trees that sustain all other life forms that follow, are in our minds as we stop to appreciate nature.  There is no better example than that of fire, which is natural matter that can both harness life and destroy life. 

May we only apply and guide the forces of nature for good!  May we savour the beauty of the produce, at this end of season for rain in Israel, and as a new agricultural cycle begins, daven for crops of prosperity and abundence.

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