Clergy Corner January 2021

by Rabbi Mason-Barkin

I believe it was the great sage – I mean – early childhood musician, who first said you “gotta shake, shake, shake your sillies out.” As we all have experienced over the last year, we are spending more time sitting, more time on screens, and more

time with electronics. We are all feeling a little stir-crazy, and like we might all benefit from the chance to ‘shake our sillies out.’

I was practically giddy with excitement on Tu BiShvat, the Jewish New Year of the Trees, I worked with the Chanen Preschool teachers to create a fun and active Tu BiShvat activity to bring our ‘Jewish Arbor Day’ to life. How lucky we are to live in sunny Phoenix where the sun shines all winter long, and we can take advantage of these lovely days to gather safely outdoors – albeit with masks on and from six feet away. Judaism, and Jewish holidays, are meant to be lived and enjoyed. They don’t happen on our screens, but in our hands, our minds, and whole bodies. We not only want to shake our sillies out, but move and groove to the beat of our Jewish year!

Out on the playground with generous distance between us, we began by being trees. Inspired by yoga (and the genius of Jamie Amor, creator of Cosmic Kids Yoga), we struck our very best tree poses. We were straight tall trees, and wobbly shaky trees. Our roots went deep to the ground, and our branches reached high to the sky. I guided the children through two ancient Talmudic tales about Honi the Circle Maker, a pious man whose strong connection to God and wonder about miracles of nature make him a popular Tu BiShvat icon.

But instead of me simply telling the story, we created the story. We all drew circles around us with our fingers on the ground. We made a rainstorm by snapping and clapping. We all shouted to the heavens, and we all lay down on the ground pretending to sleep. We all balled ourselves into little seeds and then pretended to be trees that would grow, and grow, and grow,

In the Chanen preschool community, children inspire friends, teachers, and rabbis too – to bring ancient tradition to life in new, fun, and meaningful ways. We are not just learning about what it means to be a part of Jewish culture and religion, we are doing it.

Tu BiShvat was fun, but I can’t wait to find out what Jewish idea we will bring to life next. Will we reach our roots to the ground and our branches to the sky? Will we flicker our fingers like Shabbat candles, or climb a mountain to reach the ten commandments? Jewish life is for all of us – for the littlest littles in our preschool, and for all of our parents and grandparents as well. I am so honored to shake my sillies out with this incredible, innovative, intergenerational community.

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