This Fertile Fallow January: Preparing for Tu B’shevat (Sun. 1/31, 4:00pm)

I hate winter (and sometimes the Boston Red Sox, but I digress). I’m all for the Scandinavian hygge ideal of coziness – winter delights like hot tea, sweaters and soft blankets – but I’m still wired to hate winter.
But this year, I’m deciding to love winter. And as spiritual wisdom would have it, we’re more likely to find what we look for.
Many see our post-holidays Northern winter as cold and gray, to endure and tolerate. (Florida is full of New York accents….) Then again, gardeners know that spring rebirth starts now, as nature actively recharges and gathers nutrients for the burst of color on its way. (We’ll start to see first faint hints very soon.)
Our Northern winter is a deceptively fertile incubator – like the silence before the symphony, the dark before the dawn, the Shabbat before the week. In mystical terms, it’s the powerfully raw potential (koach) for every becoming (po’el). We just need to look and listen more carefully.
Our ancestors needed few reminders. Mother animal bellies dropped with approaching births of lambs, fawns and kids. Fruit tree buds began to darken with hints of red, then swell as sun angles rose. Days lengthened. Every day, almost imperceptibly at first, folks could see just how winter was incubating spring before their very eyes.
As modernity emerged, medieval kabbalists evolved Tu B’shevat as spring’s mystical portend – that we can help see spring into being. They knew that we’re more likely to find what we look for.
Especially during these lockdown days, we still can claim our knowing that this winter is powerfully fertile. This January, covid-19 vaccines are making their way across a nation frozen and bleak. This January, a new president will herald democracy’s reboot. This January, we’ll gather online for our Tu B’shevat seder (4:00pm Sun. 1/31) and begin to see this historic winter melt toward a spring of renewal
Yes, it may seem impossibly far away. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, plenty of winter days still lie ahead. But much as our autumn journey begins before autumn, with two months of limbering up before Rosh Hashanah, so too our spring journey. With Tu B’shevat, we begin to limber up for Passover that will follow exactly two months later.
The fallow is fertile. See spring into being. And meanwhile, pass the tea.
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