Tu B'Shvat graphic

Today is one of the challenging moments that comes with publicly celebrating or lifting up special occasions.

The world does not always cooperate. Put another way, there is a Hebrew saying that translates loosely as “Man plans and G-d laughs.”

I don’t know if there is laughter, but our plans were to do a lighthearted and uplifting post celebrating the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat today. Those plans challenged by a terrible incident in Colleyville, Texas that has only recently resolved and will surely leave those involved traumatized. This is the post, and several people have already contacted me (understandably so) asking whether now is an appropriate time to be celebrating a Jewish holiday.

After sitting quietly and listening to spirit, I have decided to leave the post up, and add the following in the comments:

I was saddened to learn of a violent incident at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas involving the taking of hostages and ending with the death of the captor after a 10 hour standoff.

Coming on Shabbat and on the eve of the Jewish holiday Tu B’Shvat, we condemn this and all violence and we pray for the victims and all affected by this, that they might find peace and healing after such a traumatic event.

Having prepared this post to recognize Tu B’Shvat, a holiday that calls us back into relationship with the earth, with each other, and with ourselves, I am concerned that it may come across as insensitive. I considered deleting the post, but have decided to leave it up in solidarity and because the message of Tu B’Shvat matters. As Jews around the world celebrate by planting trees in memory of loved ones, participating in clean-up projects, and remembering the importance of connection with the land, may we each pay attention to these teachings.

May we tend to ourselves and our neighbors – all of them – the people, the trees, the bees, the rivers and lakes and oceans.

May we have compassion for those who are harmed, and for those who do harm. May we have compassion for ourselves.

There are so many lessons here, dear ones. May we pay attention and work toward the change the world needs and, help those who need help. Injustice and pain will invariably find us, and when it does, may we be stronger because we have cultivated the daily habit of celebrating joy and beauty.

I’m going to go out and pick up some trash that I know is probably in my local park. As I do that, I’ll be thinking of the people of Congregation Beth Israel and saying a prayer of gratitude – for the park, for the beauty of this morning’s sunrise, and for the chance to come back to the work of training interfaith caregivers for a world who needs them.

Blessings to you and yours,

Andrew Chirch,
Executive Director — The Chaplaincy Institute