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Community Blog Sap in the Dead of Winter

By Hebrew College


This is the time of year when I tend to feel the most discouraged with my personal accomplishments. The winter is dragging, the days too short for my taste, and it seems that many of the aspirations with which I started the year in the fall are now somewhat distant, even fuzzy. Where did the goal of learning the weekly Torah portion with my daughter go? And what exactly happened to my commitment to a short but daily Yoga practice?

The Mishna tells us that there are not one but actually 4 different New Years in the Jewish calendar. One for every season. During the winter we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the trees. The sages teach us that at this time in the land of Israel, the sap begins its rise from the roots invigorating the trunk with renewed vitality. While trees are silently being changed from within, as outside observers we do not see any indications of it.

I think Tu B’Shvat can teach us much about parenting, and about growth for that manner. Sometimes as parents we may feel that despite our efforts we do not see progress. It could be that our kids may still resist being grateful, or may be locked in an ongoing struggle with a sibling. Or maybe it is us who, despite our really trying, are still losing our temper, or judging others too quickly. So how do we really grow?

I think the secret is in the sap: subtle and slow. Just like the trees can generate the resources needed for renewal, we must remind ourselves and our children that, in truth, no effort is ever lost. We all have the internal resources to produce sap in the dead of winter, the ability to look for growth even when it is not yet visibly apparent.


Sabrina Burger is a Parenting Through a Jewish Lens Instructor

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