Tubishevat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, already feels like ancient history. Here in Atlanta we had the good fortune of being graced with some warm, radiant sunshine which allowed us to embrace the spirit of Tubishevat-- namely celebrating our connection to the natural world of which we are a part and not distinct. It was a miraculous Tubishevat at The Davis Academy and at the middle school in particular.
A few days prior to Tubishevat I saw three of my colleagues digging around in the small garden adjacent to the athletic field at school. It was particularly cold that day and I found myself intruiged to the point of braving the brisk to see what the fuss was about. It turns out that they were digging a hole to plant a tree, but not just any tree; there was an apple tree growing out of the compost pile. Thank you to the unsuspecting 7th grader who chucked a half-nibbled apple into the compost instead of consigning it to a meaningless decomposition in one of our abundant and conveniently placed rubbish bins! Little apple tree had reached the point of outgrowing the compost pile and was worthy of more dignified and intentional placement.
We quickly decided to have a tree planting ceremony in honor of Tubishevat. The apple tree was joyfully planted by Davis Academy students, in the presence of their peers, on Friday, February 6th, during Kabbalat Shabbat. As others have planted for us, so we now have fulfilled the mitzvah of planting for others.
The following Monday, on Tubishevat itself, we attempted a terrific experiment during tefillah-- going outside. A event that I consider nothing short of miraculous occurred: 240 middle school students proceeded to leave their seats in our gym/sanctuary, walk quickly and respectfully outside, spread out across our vast field of green, pray/meditate independently, and return back into the gym, without any disruption or incident. Though I hold our students in the highest esteem I was momentarily stunned that our student body was collectively capable of such a massive coordinated movement without breaking character in the least. The message I shared with the students and have since reiterated is the following: With trust and respect between and among our students, and between our students and me, their rabbi, and our entire faculty, we are capable of taking risks and creating great and beautiful memories and experiences together. Tefillah has become not only a time for prayer, but a time for building trust and community, for exploring the limits and boundaries of self, and challenging one another to rise to our fullest potential in ways both great and small. For this I am grateful.