Sun. Water. Air. Good soil. These are the essential elements needed to grow a tree. And, with care and protection, the tree flourishes. Winds may break branches, the tree may lean left or right and need staking, but with a strong trunk and deep roots, a good tree can weather harsh storms, infestations, and even fires.
Trees grow best, however, when they stand with others. They thrive in communities… forests… and in these communities, they nurture and protect each other and the creatures that seek shelter within them. So as we approach Tu b’Shevat,* the Jewish “new year” for trees, indulge me in imagining each of you as a tree and our community as a forest—each one of you helps make our forest strong.
Although here in Orange County we are a relatively young Jewish community, we have deep roots/families who have helped give us a strong trunk/foundation. A wide array of organizations and institutions serve young, old, and everyone in between. This forest of community will shade and nurture Jewish life today—and for generations to come.
This Tu b’Shevat, let us pause to think about not taking this forest for granted. Our Jewish community builds and sustains Jewish life, protects us from challenges we know, and is here for us when we face challenges we never even anticipated. So, it is incumbent upon us—all of us—to contribute what we can as individuals to nurture and protect our organizations, our institutions, and our future. Together, we can thrive.
*Tu b’Shevat begins the evening of Tuesday, January 30. Often called the Jewish Arbor Day, the holiday marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. Contemporary celebrations emphasize ecological awareness, tree-planting, and a seder (ritual dinner) featuring fruits and nuts.
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