Tu B’shvat: What Kind Of Environment Are We Creating?

 

How ironic, in a way, that this year’s celebration of Tu B’shvat coincided with Martin Luther King Day. His “dream” seems, sadly, to be fraying. Just within the last week or so (and this is being written on MLK Day) Congress, in its now usual pontificating ability to do nothing, is killing a bill that will allow help for caregivers and help secure the right to vote. This past weekend saw another shocking and frightening example of anti-Semitic terror in Texas and the first thing the new Governor of Virginia did upon his taking power was to sign an order banning books. As if that Is not enough, we expect the Supreme Court to tear eat away at laws protecting women’s rights of choice.

Tu B’shvat, the New Year of Trees, has been reimagined by much of the Jewish community as a time to focus on the environment and what we humans are doing to it. But on this MLK moment, and in light of so much that is changing, I wanted to take a moment to think about the environments that we also seem to creating; or maybe destroying? For many elders we cannot help but look with some sense of sadness of what is being created. We lament a lack of civility and a rise in polarization. Add to all of this the fact that Covid it seems, has no plans to go away too soon, and you have a recipe for real personal and social concern.

We need to make sure that we do everything we can to fight the isolation and loneliness that is at hand. Loneliness of the soul and spirit seem to be epidemic. A January 1st  2022 article in “The Economist”, entitled “Oh Man” (page 22) lamented the fact that American men are lonelier than anywhere else. A survey quoted in the article “found that friendship groups have shrunk in the past three decades” with the decline most pronounced among men. Shades of Robert Putnum’s “Bowling Along”. It is indeed a challenging time, a time that calls out, as our current Torah reading cycle shows us, for strong leadership.

What else this moment in history is showing us is the necessity, value and power of relationships. We need to be needed and are creatures, as Heschel wrote, in search of need. Shall we continue to create environments of isolation and social silos? Or, can we re-imagine new definitions and forms of meaningful personal relationships. If all politics and religion are local, so too are our relationships. We, as we age, feel this on a fundamental level. Let us all savor those relationships and be open to new ones.

Shalom,

Rabbi Richard F Address

How ironic, in a way, that this year’s celebration of Tu B’shvat coincided with Martin Luther King Day. His “dream” seems, sadly, to be fraying. Just within the last week or so (and this is being written on MLK Day) Congress, in its now usual pontificating ability to do nothing, is killing a bill that will allow help for caregivers and help secure the right to vote. This past weekend saw another shocking and frightening example of anti-Semitic terror in Texas and the first thing the new Governor of Virginia did upon his taking power was to sign an order banning books. As if that Is not enough, we expect the Supreme Court to tear eat away at laws protecting women’s rights of choice.

Tu B’shvat, the New Year of Trees, has been reimagined by much of the Jewish community as a time to focus on the environment and what we humans are doing to it. But on this MLK moment, and in light of so much that is changing, I wanted to take a moment to think about the environments that we also seem to creating; or maybe destroying? For many elders we cannot help but look with some sense of sadness of what is being created. We lament a lack of civility and a rise in polarization. Add to all of this the fact that Covid it seems, has no plans to go away too soon, and you have a recipe for real personal and social concern.

We need to make sure that we do everything we can to fight the isolation and loneliness that is at hand. Loneliness of the soul and spirit seem to be epidemic. A January 1st article in The Economist, entitled “Oh Man” (page 22) lamented the fact that American men are lonelier than anywhere else. A survey quoted in the article “found that friendship groups have shrunk in the past three decades” with the decline most pronounced among men. Shades of Robert Putnum’s “Bowling Along”. It is indeed a challenging time, a time that calls out, as our Torah reading cycle shows us, for strong leadership.

What else this moment in history is showing us is the necessity, value and power of relationships. We need to be needed and are creatures, as Heschel wrote, in search of need. Shall we continue to create environments of isolation and social silos? Or, can we re-imagine new definitions and forms of meaningful personal relationships. If all politics and religion are local, so too are our relationships. We, as we age, feel this on a fundamental level. Let us all savor those relationships and be open to new ones.

Shalom,

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