Note: This message was originally distributed on Feb. 10, 2017 to the Hebrew College community, alumni and friends.
This coming Shabbat, two moments converge on our sacred calendar – the holiday of Tu b’Shvat, on which we celebrate the new year for trees, and Shabbat Shirah, on which we chant the Song of the Sea. These two moments call out to us with a deep and important reminder: the possibility of renewal is everywhere, at all times.
Tu b’Shvat speaks to the rhythms of renewal that are built into the natural world. Who among us hasn’t had our breath catch at the glimpse of a young crocus pushing up through the earth in late winter or the sight of a stream melting in early spring? Tu b’Shvat invites us to trust that renewal will come as inevitably and insistently to our own lives, to the places that have frozen over in our own weary and wary hearts.
Shabbat Shira speaks to the same principle of renewal. The Hasidic master, the Sefat Emet, draws a connection between the Song of the Sea and the verse from Psalms: “God has placed in my mouth a new song.” What is the meaning of this “new” song, he asks. “It means that there is a song in us that will always be there, that has and will always have the power of renewal. It is in our souls and it can never be forgotten. This is the deliverance that is there for every generation.”
It is in this spirit that we are singing a new song at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. Not because we are better, smarter, or more creative than all of the generations that have come before us. But because they have taught us that Judaism will only survive if each generation – and each person – discovers what it means to sing this new song. Because they have taught us that even in the darkest times and narrowest places, there is a song in our souls that cannot be silenced, a seed of new life that will not be denied, a capacity for renewal that cannot be extinguished.
I’m pleased to share below video highlights from our recent event featuring “Voices of Resilience and Hope”, as well as a beautiful Tu b’Shvat reflection by our teacher, Rabbi Nehemia Polen. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and hope you’ll share this Torah widely with others. Most importantly, I hope it will help inspire you to discover your own new song.
With love and hope,