The Song of The Sea tells us “This is my God and I will enshrine God.” Onkelos, who translates the Torah into Aramaic, elaborates on the idea of enshrining God in our lives. We must build places for God to dwell in, but we also must bring God’s splendor to the inhabitants of the world. What an appropriate lesson as we also celebrate Tu Bishvat this coming week, the New Year of the trees. So many of our most formidable moments of Jewish prayer and spirituality take place in nature, under God’s canopy of trees. Ask a child to name a favorite place they have celebrated Shabbat, and most will say, “I love being at camp.” It is in the natural beauty of the world where God is enshrined, and we our tasked to grasp hold of that splendor to bring inside our homes, our communities, and our hearts.
This week, I was led through a guided meditation. The facilitator asked the participants to think of a meaningful tree in our lives. Unbeknownst to the others, we each chose a tree from our childhood that had meaning in our lives. My mind raced to the large tree in my front yard growing up in Syracuse, NY. The tree where the ball would get stuck, that tree whose leaves would fall into a pile for my siblings and I to jump in, that tree whose branches would blow a mighty wind in a rainstorm and would provide shade on a summer day.
That tree, part of God’s splendor, enshrined God’s presence in my life.
As you sit at the Shabbat table, ask your loved ones the same guided question: Which tree has enshrined God’s presence in your life? Proverbs teaches, “The Torah is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and all who uphold it are blessed.” May we be blessed with blossoming trees in the year ahead.