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6 Shvat 5777/ February 2, 2017
Dear friends and fellow-poets,
we are now
in the month of Shvat. There’s been a little rain.
The almond trees are flowering; cyclamen,
anemone and asphodel come out
like stars on the Judean earth; soon now
on Tu (15th) of Shvat, at the full moon,
we’ll celebrate the New Year of the Trees—
an agricultural marker first recorded
in Second Temple times. The day unfolded
a deeper meaning to the Kabbalists
who gathered in Safed: they kept the day
with feasts of ten fruits and four cups of wine
and evocations of the mystic Tree
of the Sfirot, the hidden infrastructure
of the complex creation that is Man.
Since the re-founding of our commonwealth
it has become a time to meditate
with deepened gratitude on our renewed
connection with the land our fathers tended;
and of late years this festival has brought
reflections on the natural world created
for our use, and entrusted to our care.
This year the day must bring intensified
prayers for regrowth upon the blackened slopes
where many trees once planted by the hands
of those who loved this land, went up in flames: may those who will again be out there planting
this Tu BiShvat, be seconded by rains!
November’s fires, thank G-d, spared human life
but claimed the homes of many, and the paintings
of one great artist—Yoram Raanan—
most of whose forty years’ work now is ashes
though images survive to give the sense
of a loss that will be felt through generations.
Out of that sense of loss we called for poems
that could reflect a little of the light
still visible, and constitute a prayer
for the renewal of the inspiration
that flashed these sights too briefly to the world.
From more than twenty poets came the tributes
that fill the first division of this issue
which also has to speak of other losses:
Gretti Izak and Sue Tourkin Komet,
whose voices, often heard here, now are silent;
Michael Mark, builder and visionary,
known through friends, a tree of life to many,
murdered upon the road outside his home
south of Hevron, where live some of our bravest
(there are no poems yet about Amona,
twice now uprooted by decree of those
whom heat of hate has turned against their own).
But where, more than on this disputed soil,
does life lift up its head and dare to flourish
all the more vividly against the glare?
So in this issue there was also room
for poems on the incidents of life
with its outcroppings of coincidence,
on fellow creatures and on natural forces,
on how form works in art and in the world,
on the ongoing struggle of the spirit.
This is the largest issue we have printed;
we hope you’ll sip it slowly, taste its fruits
This year’s calendar would have it
that Tu Bishvat falls on Shabbat Shirah,
the Sabbath when we read in shul the song
that burst forth at the splitting of the sea,
when nature’s laws were overturned to save
the people upon whom was laid the task
of teaching the Creator’s laws and thus
keeping the world from going back to chaos.
This year, then, we are specially reminded
that all this world’s solid causality,
the basis of all rational calculations,
depends on an incalculable Will,
on a sustaining pulse from Otherwhere,
felt perhaps – sometimes – in the veins of song,
though mingled with the human heart’s desires.
And thus we pray that what we offer here
be heard as celebration of Creation
and prayer that in the world the sap may rise
of a new spring when humankind will flower
in the light of justice, toward the G-d of life.
Esther Cameron, Editor-in-chief
Mindy Aber Barad, Co-editor for Israel