Rebecca Masinter

Rosh Chodesh Shevat I

Shevat is the month of Tu B’shevat - the birthday of the trees and the day we eat fruits of the trees, and yet it falls in the winter when the trees look dead and bare! Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to celebrate trees in the spring or summer? We know that Tu B’shevat, in mid-winter, is when the sap in trees begins to rise and run through the trees in preparation for forming the summer’s fruit. This process is silent and invisible. Even to a careful observer the tree looks bare and dead. Yet inside, there is movement and growth which will lead to leaves sprouting, flowers blooming, and fruit growing. Why do we celebrate this silent, subtle growth instead of the fully formed summer tree? The answer is simple: the lesson of Shevat is that we celebrate the simcha of the process, not the simcha of the product! We recognize joy in the process of growth, not only in the final attainment of a goal. Rav Shamson Refael Hirsch points out that the words simcha, joy, and tzmicha, growth, are closely related because joy stems from growth towards a meaningful purpose. As mothers, I think we can take two points to heart as we enter the month of Shevat. Firstly, growth is often silent and invisible. Our own, and our children’s. In an Instagram age it’s easy to think that milestones should be visible and easy to capture in a moment, but the truth is that growth is often hidden. Precisely when you think your child is not learning to walk, read, mature, or reach any stage of growth, is when inside they are working towards and growing to that goal, it's just hidden. Also, we can remember to celebrate the simcha of the growth process. Just as we don’t wait to clap or cheer until a baby finally walks smoothly and with confidence, but rather we cheer him on as he stumbles and falls, we can and should do the same for our older children and ourselves. The process of growing isn’t obvious, and it’s full of slips, but there’s inherent simcha for us to notice and express. We can rejoice and celebrate through the process of growth even with its slips and stumbles, and we can show our children that life is a journey of growth which is joyous even as that very growth sometimes looks invisible or bare like a tree in winter. Have a wonderful day and a month of bracha!