As we approach Tu B’Shvat (the 15th of the month of Shevat on the Jewish calendar) which is designated as the "New Year for Trees" it's time to listen to what the trees have to say to us.

(Trees don't talk but have a great deal to say, in contrast to candidates for political office who talk a great deal and have very little to say.)

One of the most amazing things a tree tells is about survival. Even if a terrible storm or vicious beast will tear apart a fruit tree and smash it utterly, as long as one twig remains, we can plant it on its own, or graft it onto another far less fruitful tree. This cutting will flourish as a tree bearing beautiful fruit — fruit of the same flavor the original tree had; or alternatively, it will greatly enrich and increase the productivity of the tree into which it was grafted.

Recently, on a particularly frigid Friday night, one of the people who braved the elements to attend Shabbat Eve services at our synagogue was a Holocaust survivor who afterwards said the following to me: "Rabbi, I don’t know how I ever survived dozens of days colder than this during the Holocaust. We had to stand motionless outside for more than two hours in nothing but a thin pair of pajamas. As the years go by I see my survival more and more as a miracle."

Hearing these words as I was about to go warmly bundled up into the cutting cold evoked the unspeakable pain and suffering of the Holocaust, and my own inability to ever truly grasp it, in a very poignant way.

But something else came to me: These words came from a man who came to this country after the Shoah and, notwithstanding everything he had endured, raised a beautiful family, and is very active in our Synagogue and Jewish communal life. This experience of unstinting contribution to Judaism and the Jewish community is the rule, rather than the exception, among the Holocaust survivors that I have met. They may have come here as scattered and broken twigs, but these cuttings have flourished and borne fruit in all areas of religious and communal endeavor throughout the Israeli, American and European Jewish communities where they resettled, making those communities far greater than they ever were before.

We, who have merited being healthy, whole "trees" all our lives, must ask ourselves: How much more is asked of us, who have not suffered! Let us challenge ourselves to carry on the work of this most shattered yet most fruitful generation.

May our deeds serve as a good answer.