Pre-Spring?

R. David’s January column: We’re on the runway for spiritual spring – yes, this early. And if we’re attentive, there are clues all around us.

Happy 2023, TBE friends!

It’s no secret that I never especially loved winter. Since I was young, I’d start looking to the ground in mid-February for the first precocious shoots. The search got me into the spirit of spring.

This year, on January 1, spring’s daffodils broke through the ground:

I stood dumbstruck. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – at least six weeks early, it seemed. I felt a mix of boyish joy that spring is coming, and lament about climate change.

Then, predictably, the rabbi in me thought about the Jewish calendar, and how Tu b’Shevat this year will come “early,” about a month from now.

Before each year’s Jewish month of Shevat (which starts soon), I write of how Tu b’Shevat heralds the promise of spring. I say that Tu b’Shevat calls us to feel tree sap rise before it actually does, stirring us to begin rising after the fallow season of winter. And I write of how the three full moons of Tu b’Shevat, Purim and Passover light our timeless journey toward renewal and freedom.

It all feels especially early this year. A friend’s son once saw early daffodil shoots and asked to crank them back into the ground to protect them from winter snow. And those were late February shoots: what to say about January 1 daffodils?

This year’s oddly early shoots feel poignant this year, as we near the covid-19 pandemic’s third anniversary, and stand together waves of racism and antisemitism that washed over our area.

We can use early signs of renewal and hope.

Metaphor aside and whatever our beliefs, most signs, portends, clues, hopes, yearnings, prayers and plans have a too-early quality to them. Most share a common audacity to defy appearance, inertia and reason. And we all need that – especially now.

A bush burning with a promise to liberate Israelites enslaved by the world’s strongest power? Making deserts bloom? Standing up against antisemitism, the world’s oldest hate?

As we say in the Bronx, fuggetaboutit! – yet our spiritual ancestors have been in the business of defying the odds for most of recorded history. Our ancestors wrested hope, progress and triumph from impossible odds.

So here we go: the journey begins anew. The bush will burn. The promise will boom long before it seems possible. The sap will rise. A few intrepid daffodils will defy the odds.

And with the audacity to see with our mind’s eye, so will we. Happy Spring, January 1 edition.

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