Parashat Yitro: Who am I and who is my neighbour?


The first Mishna in the tractate Rosh Hashana informs us of various ‘new years’. These are times of the year that are considered the beginning of the annual calendar with regard to various laws. The Rosh Hashana for trees is the fifteenth day of the month of Sh’vat, more famously known as ‘Tu Bi Sh‘vat’. This day is considered a festive day. Further, there is the universal custom to make blessings on, and, eat a variety of fruit. The overall focus of the day is to thank God for the gift of trees to the world and to recognise the wonders of nature.

Tu Bi Sh‘vat and Parashat Yitro

In our Torah portion we read of God‘s encounter with all people of Israel. In this moment of intense, hallowed energy, a voice echoed through the Sinai mountains. It began, “I am the Lord your God…” and concluded with “all that is your neighbour’s.” The Torah’s ten essential guidelines, which address our place in the world are bookended by the self (anokhi) and the other (re’ekha). 

Rabbi Ira Blum teaches that on a daily basis, we challenge ourselves to consider the existential WHO AM I? and the social WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR? What a blessing! To be tasked with the responsibility of compassion and respect for others, even as we continue our individual searches for truth and meaning.

As we celebrate Tu Bi Sh‘vat this week, let us mirror our natural environment by finding strength and space to nourish personal growth, while cultivating circles of responsibility. May we find balance in our rooted knowledge, and may we continue to enrich one another on our journeys of self-discovery, social awareness, and everything in between.

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbat Rabbi Adrian M Schell

(Source: Rabbi Ira Blum)


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