Rebecca Masinter

Rosh Chodesh Shevat II - Hidden Growth

Good Chodesh! Rosh Chodesh Shevat comes in the middle of winter. In Baltimore, we’re getting our first snowstorm of the season today. It’s an odd time to begin thinking about spring, blossoming trees, and Tu B’Shvat. According to Beit Shammai, the celebration of Tu B’Shvat should be today, on Rosh Chodesh Shevat. Renewal is somehow tied to the essence of this day and monthl, even in the midst of winter. Whether it’s Rosh Chodesh Shevat or in two weeks on Tu B’Shvat, we don’t see the blossoming of trees. It still looks like winter. The growth and regeneration is happening deep inside each tree as the sap begins to rise and run through the trees in preparation for 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, in time, lead to leaves sprouting, flowers blooming, and fruit growing. Rosh Chodesh Shevat falls during the Parshah of Bo, when the Jewish people were given their first mitzvah, hachodesh hazeh lachem, the mitzvah to celebrate Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is another holiday when we celebrate the beginning of the moon’s growth, but on Rosh Chodesh the moon is often invisible. Its light, if any, is weak and pale. Why don’t we celebrate the moon’s renewal when it has completed its growth and is full and bright? Why don’t we celebrate the tree’s growth when it is bedecked in leaves and summer fruit? We, the Jewish people, celebrate the process of becoming, the acts of changing, not the final products. For example, we don’t celebrate New Year’s on January 1 which is smack in the middle of winter. Rather, we have two new years, Rosh Hashana and Nisan, and both are times of transition, the change of seasons, fall and spring. Even the times we daven each day are times of changes, Shacharis as soon as daybreak dawns, Mincha as the day transitions to evening, and Maariv, when the stars come out and darkness falls. Shevat and Rosh Chodesh fit right in - we recognize and celebrate the process of growing, of becoming, of changing. Even more than that, we know that just like the moon on Rosh Chodesh and just like the sap of the trees in Shevat, real change is often invisible. Change happens silently and subtly. We don’t notice it while in process, and then one day it’s apparent. Mothers witness this every day. Our children are constantly in a state of growth, of becoming, and we don’t see it happening until one day we look and there is maturity staring back at us. One day we realize the baby slept through the night for a week. One day we suddenly see our child expressing care and concern for another. Those are not the moments of growth. Those are the products of growth. The process went on invisibly day by day, and then one day you see the peiros, the fruits. The Jewish people celebrate the process, the subtle, quiet, invisible process of change. And the beauty of this is that all of us, each one of us, can be in that process. Each one of us and each one of our children is in the middle of growing and becoming. We don’t know where we’ll end up, and we don’t know when we’ll see the fruits of our efforts, but we know we’re working on developing day by day. Shevat is a time to appreciate the process of growth. It’s okay if we haven’t yet achieved a goal we are aiming for, it’s okay if our child hasn’t hit their milestone too, what matters is that we are still on our journey. It’s Rosh Chodesh Shevat and it’s cold and snowy here, but inside, where no one can see, we are all growing, our kids are all growing, and that is worthy of celebration.