By Samara Katz

Director of Congregational Learning, Temple Emeth

A new secular year begins with much noise about making resolutions, changing direction and starting anew. Most of these promises are easily made and quickly broken once the year settles in and the “new” becomes less so.

created at: 2013-01-14In January this year, the Jewish calendar also concentrates on the “new” and the re“new”able in the month of Shevat. The first signs of spring are evident in Israel, and the holiday of Tu B’Shevat puts focus on regeneration, growth and new beginnings in nature.

The Tu B’Shevat seder makes much of the parallels between the regeneration in nature and the spiritual regeneration of humankind. We are bound to cycles of nature, affected by the powerful forces of the natural world, and dependant on the land for our survival. Looking forward to a new year must include looking after our environment, and our physical, emotional and spiritual connections to our planet.

The task is huge and daunting. How can we as individuals make any really significant impact? Does planting a tree in Israel for Tu B’Shevat really make any difference in the great scheme of things?

I would suggest that one person can only take one step. But collectively, we can leap. One tree planted begins the new direction, and together with the efforts of others, new forests are created.

If we take care of each moment, then there is no need for new resolutions and new beginnings. We can only take one day at a time anyway, and live in the present. However, what we do today matters tomorrow. Rather than New Year’s resolutions, we can undertake “renewable” resolutions on a daily basis that will bear fruit for years to come. Tu B’Shevat is the Jewish expression of this ideal.

            Wishing you and your family a renewable 2013.

                        – Samara Katz

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