An oft-read poem at our Hinenu services, “Litany for Survival,” by the late poet, teacher, librarian and activist Audre Lorde, ends with the following couplets:

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again … 
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive. 

This past month, we read of Jacob’s dreams of inheritance and protection, of Joseph’s dreams of success and dominance, and of Pharaoh’s dreams of great abundance and terrifying scarcity.

What is going on below the surface is often more valuable, mysterious and important than what we can observe.

This is why our dream lives offer such wisdom and insight, because they make our subconscious thought processes more explicit. This is why art making, dance and other non-verbal ways to express ourselves matter so much.

And this is why, when we celebrate the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for the trees, on the 15th day in the month of Shevat, we celebrate blossoming and blooming, even in the midst of the quiet of winter.

This year, Tu B’Shevat begins at sundown on Sunday, Jan. 20, and continues through to the 21st at sundown.

“Why,” we ask each and every year, “are we celebrating new growth and harvest when there is still snow on the ground, when we are months away from actually seeing any buds begin to appear on branches of trees?”

when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again…

According to a discussion in the Talmud, it is at this time of year that the rainy season stops and the trees begin to drink from the water. The sap rises in otherwise dormant trees, and beneath the surface, life moves.

What appears to be dormant to the naked eye is actually moving, changing and preparing.

At the end of the harvest festival of Sukkot, on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, we begin to recite the prayers for rain. We wrap up our summer’s harvest, offer gratitude for its bounty and begin to fear what will happen over the winter.

Will enough rain fall? Will spring really come when we need it to?

So what an incredible leap of faith to take by marking Tu B’Shevat, and declaring the new year for the trees regardless of what we can see on the surface. A simple act to celebrate the new year for the trees before we can witness the growth and harvest for the year ahead. A powerful leap of faith that affirms an understanding that there is more to the world than we can ever know with our senses, that notices the greater mysteries of life.

Honor the still waters that run so deep.

This Tu B’Shevat, I invite you to notice that which is moving beneath the surface. What dreams or goals have you yet to make manifest in the world? What part of you is still growing and maturing?

Which relationships are in need of tending, regardless of which are the loudest on the surface? Offer celebration at this beginning, this prayer for great bounty in the year ahead!

May this month of Shevat be an invitation to notice the quiet places, the still-growing places, so that we may nurture them to bloom brightly.

May we honor persistence and survival, despite the cold and long winters.

Rabbi Ariana Katz is the founding spiritual leader of Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl.