Category Archives: Tu BiShvat

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Beshalach and Tu BiShvat!

Dear all,

return-to-shabbatShavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Rachel — followed by our Tu BiShvat lunch seder at 11am.  (Please RSVP for the seder so we know how best to prepare!)

(See flyer, below.)

There will also be a kids’ service with puppetry and Tu BiShvat activities in the classroom during the same time as the “regular” service — please RSVP to for that.

This week we’re reading parashat Beshalach. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here are commentaries from the URJ: B’shalach at the URJ.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact the office.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Don’t miss Tu BiShvat! RSVP now:


Save the Date: Tu BiShvat, The New Year of the Trees


Save the date and plan to join us for Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees!

Saturday, February 11: come at 9:30 to daven (pray) the morning service (with some special Tu BiShvat treats in it)

And/or come at 11am for our Tu BiShvat lunch seder

Bless and eat tree fruits

Experience a mystical journey through the four seasons and the Four Worlds

Rekindle your commitment to caring for our earth

RSVP to rabbibarenblat at gmail dot com or call the office at 413-663-5830.

And/or: if you use FB, please RSVP on the Facebook Event Page and share it on your own page to encourage others to come too!)

(Please bring a vegetarian / dairy dish to share.)


Join us for Tu BiShvat! Jan 23, 11:15am

A New Design

Join us on Feb. 7 for a Tu BiShvat Seder & Shabbat Potluck Feast!


Join us for a potluck lunch (bring a vegetarian/dairy dish) and a seder honoring Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees. 

The seder will include special teachings about the shmita (Sabbatical) year from environmental educator Maggid David Arfa, interwoven with material from Rabbi Rachel’s Tu BiShvat haggadah for adults.  

Saturday,  February 7 at 11am
(after morning services)
Please RSVP to office by Feb. 4.

53 Lois Street, North Adams | 413-553-5830 |

Tu BiShvat and self-care: a mini-d’var-Torah for Yitro

Here’s the very tiny d’var Torah I offered during Shabbat morning services at CBI yesterday. (I kept it brief because I wanted plenty of spacious time for our Tu BiShvat seder after services!) (cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

In today’s parsha, Yitro, Moses receives some of the best self-care advice in the Torah: you can’t do it all yourself. You will wear yourself out, and then you won’t be able to help those whom you serve.

We’ve all been where Moses was: overworked and stretched too thin.

Self-care matters. If we don’t nourish ourselves, then we can’t do the work we’re here to do in the world. Whether you think of that work as “caring for your family and community,” or “saving the planet,” or “serving God” — we all have work we’re meant to do in this life, and if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t do that work.

Today at CBI we’re celebrating Tu BiShvat, the day when — our tradition teaches — the sap rises in the trees for the year to come, nourishing the trees so that in the future they can bear fruit.

We too need to be nourished so that we can bear fruit as the year unfolds. As the trees need rain and snowmelt, we need the living waters of Torah to enliven our souls.

As the trees need fertile soil and good nutrients, so we need to feel ourselves to be firmly planted — and to get all of the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual nutrients we need in order to grow and to flower.

What nourishment do you most need on this Shabbat?

What would feed you in all four worlds — your body, your heart, your mind, your soul?

What do you need to soak up in order to be able to bring forth the wonders, the ideas, the teachings, the kindnesses, the mitzvot which only you can do?

And how can you take care of yourself, as Yitro instructed Moshe, so that you will be able to open your heart and receive what you need?

Join us next Shabbat for the New Year of the Trees!

6846527953_6638c0d567_nDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

The New Year of the Trees is almost here!

Late next week, when the moon is full, we’ll reach the festival of Tu BiShvat, also known as the New Year of the Trees. Tradition holds that this is when the sap begins to rise in the trees to feed the fruit of the year to come.

We who live in sugaring country know about the rising of the sap and the sweetness which our trees can produce! But the sap rising at Tu BiShvat is more than merely literal — it’s also a spiritual reality. This is the time when we invite blessing and sustenance to flow into our parched souls, enlivening us so that we can spiritually grow in the new year.

8414116189_c018dd9ca2_mHere at CBI we’ll celebrate Tu BiShvat with a special seder at lunchtime on Saturday, January 18.

After our sweet Shabbat services (which run from 9:30 until 11), we’ll sit down for a Tu BiShvat seder in the social hall. We’ll bless and eat nuts and fruits which hold mystical significance, experiencing a journey through the “Four Worlds” of action / emotion / thought / spirit. As we eat these tree fruits with mindful intention, we open channels of blessing for the trees of our earth.

As our seder concludes, we’ll segue into a vegetarian / dairy potluck lunch.

Please RSVP to the synagogue office (413-663-5830 or office at cbiweb dot org) to let us know that you are coming, so we will know how many tables and chairs to set up (and how much of each symbolic fruit to buy.)

All are welcome for both Shabbat services and the Tu BiShvat seder lunch — though if you can only make it to one of them, that’s okay too.

Enjoy the waxing moon, and join us next Shabbat for Tu BiShvat!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

The sap begins to rise – a Tu BiShvat message from Reb Rachel

Dear all,

506969604_c6b985e591_mThe holiday cycle is a circle; every year it repeats. There are exceptions — marvels like birkat ha-chamah, which happens only every 28 years — but on the whole, we celebrate the same holidays year in and year out. Tonight at sundown we’ll enter not only into Shabbat but also into Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees. One month later, the next full moon will coincide with Purim. One month later, the next full moon will bring us Pesach. Seven weeks and one day after that, Shavuot.

There’s meaning in the way one holiday leads to the next. Just as Shabbat is more special when seen against the backdrop of the weekdays which surround it, each festival is subtly shaped by its place in the wheel of the year. Tu BiShvat, which begins tonight, is the first step on a journey which will lead us to the revelation of Torah and the flowering of glories we can only now imagine. It’s our first step toward the abundance of summer.

1694396916_dc49c4f9c4_mRashi teaches that Tu BiShvat is when the sap begins to rise to feed the leaves and fruit of trees for the year to come.  Right now we’re experiencing the bitter cold of deep winter. At sunrise a few days ago the thermometer registered one solitary degree above zero (Fahrenheit.) We bundle up, we hunker down, we go inward. The freedom of spring feels far away. It’s hard to imagine the air becoming soft, forgiving, fragrant with new life instead of with woodsmoke and snow. TuBiShvat invites us to recognize that the sap begins to rise precisely at the moment when winter feels most entrenched.

And the sap is rising not only on a literal level (though I expect to see maple trees tapped for syrup in a few weeks, when we have above-freezing days and below-freezing nights) but also on a spiritual level. This is the season when we open ourselves to trusting that new ideas, prayers, insights, spiritual “juices” will rise in us. Even if spiritual growth is invisible, we trust that it’s taking place.

8409143956_e4ef2eef4f_mI’ve always loved the Norse stories about Yggdrasil, the cosmic tree which contains nine worlds between its roots and its branches. Judaism too has teachings about a cosmic tree, the Tree of the Sefirot — ten qualities or aspects of God, envisioned through the metaphor of a tree with creation at its roots and infinite unknowable God beyond its highest branches. Tu BiShvat is an opportunity to journey through that cosmic tree, a chance to prayerfully and meditatively ascend from roots toward branches toward what’s beyond our ken.

And, of course, Tu BiShvat is a chance to just celebrate trees. To sing happy birthday to the trees (as I did with our Hand in Hand students last week), to wander in the woods and greet the trees and connect with their quiet sturdy presence. One of the ways we celebrate trees is through eating their nuts and fruits with mindfulness (accompanied by the blessing for tree fruits which sanctifies that act of consumption). The kabbalists saw this as a tikkun, a healing. I suspect most of us need to strive for healing in our relationships with food and eating, and with the natural world on which we depend.

8408052579_8feaec4ae0_mImagine eating a piece of tree fruit with complete focus, with the intention of being conscious of the incredible flow of energy which went into that fruit’s growth and the miraculous flow of divine blessing which resulted in the fruit being here for you to eat. That apple isn’t just an apple; it’s a gift from God! And when we enjoy the apple with gratitude and mindfulness, and we thank the Source of Blessing, we’re stimulating the flow of more blessing into the world, causing more abundance to flow so that we can be fed in the new growing season to come. That’s what our tradition teaches.

A person should intend [on Tu BiShvat], when reciting a blessing, to channel divine life-energy to all creations and creatures — inanimate, plant, animal and human. One should believe with perfect faith that the blessed God gives life to them all and that there is a spark of divine life-energy in every thing, which gives it existence, enlivens it, and causes it to grow. —Rabbi Avraham Yaakov of Sadiger (19th c.)

We’ll celebrate Tu BiShvat (and Shabbat, too) at CBI’s Tu BiShvat seder / Shabbat potluck tonight.) But regardless of whether or not you’re formally celebrating Tu BiShvat, I hope you’ll take some time tonight and tomorrow to consider trees, and to be grateful for them — and to rejoice as your own spiritual sap begins to rise.

Shabbat shalom and happy Tu BiShvat to all,
Reb Rachel

(Adapted from a post on Velveteen Rabbi.)