Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
1. Our pulse quickens when we realize the many joyous days, starting today with the new month of Shevat, that appear on the calendar in the months ahead. Two weeks from today, it's Tu Bishvat; two weeks later, the month of Adar begins and two weeks after that we celebrate Purim. Two weeks after Purim, the month of Nissan arrives and two weeks after that the week of Passover starts as we hold the Seder (first of two if you live outside Israel). Fittingly, the weekly Torah portions during this period describe events surrounding the Exodus, our redemption from slavery to freedom. We don't want to miss out on the abundance that's in the air during this time, as reflected not only in the celebration of many joyous days but in the exuberance of nature itself as winter gradually loses its grip with the arrival of spring.
2. The month of Shevat that commences today includes the special holiday of Tu Bishvat, the new year of the trees. Rav Kook, Israel's first Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi, in a discussion of all the months of the year, wrote about this month as follows: "Orchards of fruit trees in the Holy Land blossom with the hopes of every generation." We may take the blossoming of trees in the land of Israel for granted, but for thousands of years the fervent hope of our people was to witness this spectacle. Thus, when we look around at the trees and flowers in our land, we should not take what we see for granted. Shevat is not only a month of blossoming and renewed growth, but the realization of a dream that persisted throughout the generations.
3. When written in Hebrew Shevat is an acronym for שנשמע בשורות טובות -- that we should hear only good news. Amen.