Yerushalayim is all abuzz with Tu b’Shvat, which falls on Shabbat. All the nut/dried fruit stands in the Shuk are teeming with crowds. Growing up, this holiday, the New Year for Trees and all plant life, was something less than an after- thought. We were given little baggies of unshelled almonds and a weird, inedible something called ‘bockser.’ It was long, thin, hard as a rock, tastless, filled with seeds and no one had any idea why anyone would want to have anything to do with it.

Upon entry into the world of organic, natural hippie food, I discovered a wonderful chocolate substitute called ‘carob.’ When I finally saw a fresh carob, soft, with a not too sweet tastiness, I was amazed. This is my initial association with Tu b’Shvat. Since then, of course, I have been fully initiated into environmental and ecological consciousness from years in the superior counter-culture world as well as the burgeoning awareness of ‘eco-Torah’ consciousness. Of this I will address below.

Tu b’Shvat is about the rebirth of nature’s creative cycle after winter’s hibernation. What’s that you say? Winter is still full on! Yes, but…. Throughout Torah we are led to understand that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You just can’t see it. When the world wants someone to give up, it tries to show them bleakness and death. But so often HaShem wants us to know that when things look dark, there is something new percolating under the surface and you just have to hang out with great trust and faith and you will see and reap a harvest of the ‘new.’

Science tells us that spring begins on March 21st. HaShem tells us it’s now. Under the earth’s surface, new life is beginning. It may be a while before it breaks through and becomes revealed, but the existence and vibrancy of new life is not only when everyone can see. Just think of the first days of conception. Even the woman carrying this new beginning life might not know. But she’s still pregnant with new life, tiny as a seed, but yet filled with a divine potential no less than when that baby emerges fully in the world.

At the same time, this is Shabbat Shirat HaYam – The Shabbat of the Song of the Sea, better known as the splitting of the sea. Reb Shlomo gives over a classic Ishbitzer teaching that the splitting of the sea was beyond nature. Before creating the world, HaShem came to the Sea and said that there will be a time, a moment when I need you to go beyond your nature. Water’s nature is to flow. I will need you one day to stop flowing.

We live in a world of the destruction of nature. Therefore the sensitive, awake and aware have been working hard to save nature. Society cares little for a person’s nature, so the tikkun, the rectification is to allow people to rehabilitate their nature.

However, there are moments where the most high conscious act we can do is to so-to-speak, suspend our natural tendencies and go beyond to allow something new to come to life. Of course, we are speaking of our better nature. Torah teaches us that we are required to rectify our lower natural inclinations; to know borders and boundaries. It is not in our nature to wake up and take a cup and pour water three times over each hand and put on a shawl with fringes and bound ourselves in leather straps and boxes and whisper ancient words. But to do so, lifts us to our higher nature and connects us with something beyond ourselves. The ideal is to marry our capacity to go beyond our nature with our nature – to find a way to enact the eternal tradition with a unique personal investment of self. So we may express the prayers with song and dance and we may inject meditative techniques that enhance the doing and the being.

But even more, we might find that there are times when the imperative is to speak out when we are naturally quiet or visa versa. We may be required to act when it is in our nature not to or visa versa. Shabbat Shira is invested with the power and potential for us to be able to go beyond our nature when that is required of us. We have only to make a conscious connection with this energy and intention that HaShem is sending down to us.

At the same time, we are trying to consciously connect with the blessing that is nature. Nature begins with a seed. That seed contains the unity and oneness of all that which will eventually branch out. Assuming proper environmental conditions, all that is within the dna of the seed will emerge in fullness. This Shabbat, HaShem is planting a new seed within us. It is up to us to be committed to creating environmental conditions that will allow all that is within us to emerge in fullness.

When we feel dead inside, that is when we need to remember that there must be something new percolating beneath the surface and with trust, faith, patience and perseverance, it will reveal itself to us.

My close brother, Bob Katz who recently made Aliyah with his wife Amy and four kids just called and shared with me the following. It is taught that we do not eat nuts on Rosh HaShanah, because the gematria of the word nut is the same as ‘chet’ – sin. But here on the New Year for trees, we do eat nuts. The gematria for nut is also ‘tov’ – good. So it came to me what when we do something at the wrong time, it is a sin and when we do it at the right time it is good.

So my blessing to us all is that when we have to go beyond our nature, we only do it at the right time so that it is good and when we are to act within our nature it should be always in the right time. So that everything should be good. Shabbat Shalom.

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