According to the Talmud Tu B'Shevat (15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat) is the New Year of Trees. Human beings and trees share a defining characteristic. The Hebrew word describing the plant kingdom - Tzomeach, also means growing. So, Tu B'Shevat is a time ripe for looking at what growth is all about.

My wife and I are both directors of Chabad Project Pride in Montreal. It is a Chabad House that deals exclusively with issues surrounding alcoholism and addiction, serving addicts and their family members. Here we witness miraculous stories of growth. For example, Bob and Esther are both eighty years old, and they have a middle-aged son who is an active drug addict. He was terrorizing his parents - stealing, lying and taking advantage of them whenever he could. When Bob and Esther came to us, we suggested that they needed to learn how to set up boundaries to protect themselves. We taught them simple things like taking back their credit cards. They resisted for a while, arguing that they can't because they have been letting him use their card for 35 years. Well, four months have gone by, and not only have they changed, but they have grown so much that they now help other parents to make changes. When an eighty year old couple changes patterns that have lasted half a century, it carries a message of great hope. When I am convinced that I am stuck and that I will stay stuck, then I buy into the erroneous thinking that there is no chance for change.

How did Bob and Esther learn to grow? They had the humility and courage to seek help and do the Next Right Thing (NRT). It wasn't a long-term strategy nor a long distance race, it was like the first steps of a baby. The baby takes the chance, defies the odds and takes the next step. All the parents have to do is hold out their hands so the baby will be reassured that it's not alone. So, at Chabad Project Pride and Chabad centers world-wide, we hold out our hands, open our hearts and make sure no one feels alone.

What gives the strength to that baby or that couple to do what they have never done before? They don't know what the next challenge will bring. The baby can fall, the couple can fail, but they both yearn to be free. Free to grow, free to change, free to do the Next Right Thing. The desire for freedom gives the strength to try the unknown and the motivation to change. The support and the structure of an accepting community allows for the changes to stick for the growth to continue.

So the next time you see a tree, pause and ask yourself - Am I growing? Am I changing? Whether the answer is yes or no, the strategy is still the same. Get in touch with the yearning to grow within you. Get some humility to seek out guidance and then muster the courage to change. Reach out to those extended hands and keep moving forward. Sounds like a lot? Sounds like too much? Don't buy into that thinking! Just do the Next Right Thing. Now, that is growth! Happy Tu B'Shevat!