Today is Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees. It is celebrated on the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shvat. The Talmud tells us that there are four New Years in the Jewish calendar. The New Year of the Trees represents the beginning of spring and a new agricultural cycle in Israel.
On Tu B’Shvat I often share two contrasting stories. In 1985 I visited the former concentration camp of Theresienstadt. There, a survivor (Mr. Gruber) who continued to live in the Czech village after the war showed me a tree where his wife taught young children some of their final lessons before they were put to death by the Nazis. This tree he said was a temporary shelter and holding station- but almost every child who learned under this tree was eventually murdered.
In 1986, I had a totally different experience in Israel. I planted trees with newly arrived young children from Ethiopia. It was a very moving and exciting moment as we planted seedlings that would eventually become large, strong, and healthy trees in a well protected forest.
The lesson that I have shared from these two stories is that children in Israel have a protected future; the young Jewish children in Europe in the 1940’s did not.
For me the tree is symbolic of the shelter we provide to our young Jewish orphaned and disadvantaged girls at the Lev Lalev Orphanage in Netanya, Israel. These “young seedlings” receive protection, nourishment, cultivation, and support thanks to our wonderful Lev Lalev family.
May the seeds of today bring the promise of tomorrow for these wonderful young women.