By: Rev. Pam McGrath
February in New England is generally a cold and frozen time. But does that mean it is barren? I think not. Even in winter, life begins.
There is a Jewish holiday that falls in our January or February, called “Tu B’Shvat.” It is the day on which, traditionally, the first spring sap in Israel was thought to rise in trees. (Leviticus 19 specifies that a tree’s fruit may only be eaten in the tree’s fifth year. This day was used as the cut-off date for a tree’s “year,” so that the fifth year can be calculated. Therefore, it is known as the “New Year’s Day of Trees.”)
The striking thing about Tu B’Shvat is this: it celebrates the invisible renewal of life. Trees aren’t thought to begin their new year when the trees bud, nor when their flowers bloom. Instead, it’s when the unseen sap of life begins to course through the trees, making growth and blossoms possible, even inevitable. Tu B’Shvat has become known as a Jewish “Earth Day.”
On Feb. 10 at 7:00 pm, Temple Beth El will come to FCC and lead us in a Tu B’Shvat Seder. With our neighbors, we will share prayers, songs, the ritual eating of fruits and hope for the healing of creation. (Please register to attend. Childcare available.)
So, let’s see February the way our Jewish sisters and brothers do: as a time when, beneath the surface, sap is preparing to rise and trees are preparing for a burst of growth.
This is true for First Church. We have nourished or planted many saplings this past year. We have thriving Sunday School classes; an active Environmental Justice team bringing monthly climate change speakers; a social justice team pairing with the Pioneer Valley Project; Loaves and Fishes feeding the homeless; a vibrant music program; a performance of “Snapshot of Civil Rights” performing at FCC on Feb. 23; and many more ministries bearing fruit. We also have a fresh crop of new members, ready to add their energy to the already considerable energies of the rest of us.
Can we tell what fruit will grow from these saplings? No. We can’t tell from a dormant twig what kind of flowers will grow on it. But, as people of faith, we know that growth is coming.
Meanwhile, let’s make the best of this quiet season. February is a perfect time for our new book Lenten study. We’ll be reading the book, “Entering the Passion of Jesus” by Amy-Jill Levine,” and reflecting on Jesus’ last days.
As individuals and as a community, let’s not force ourselves to flower nor give up the sleeping trees for dead. Instead, let’s celebrate the miracle of new life, even when it can’t yet be seen. Let’s prepare ourselves for rejuvenation, renewal, and ever more vibrant lives!
Shalom, Rev. Pam