'Shalom' art exhibit shares themes with New Year of the Trees


Raisins, figs, almonds, dates, dried apricots ... in a week, people in many countries will savor the fruits of the trees.

Friday evening, Jan. 25, will begin Tu B'Shvat, the New Year of the Trees in the Jewish calendar.

Berkshire artist Wendy Rabinowitz said this holiday may come closest of any in the year to holding her connection to her faith.

"There's a legend," she said, "that the trees asked to have the holiday at this time, because in the thaw they could feel the water moving through them."

She has created at least a dozen pieces based on trees. For her, Tu B'Shvat shares roots with much of her work in the larger meaning of shalom, the Hebrw word often translated as "peace."

Shalom means more than a truce, she said -- it means wholeness, well-being. A holiday that cares for trees, and for the land, also cares for the soul.

"God has a tree of flowering souls in paradise," she quoted from Moses of Leon, the writer/translator of the Zohar, a 12th-century text at the core of Jewish mysticism.

In her work, Rabinowitz seeks and embodies that feeling of wholeness, in body, mind and soul -- in holding a loved one, in advocating for a community -- in feeling the pleasure of a healthy body.

Walking or dancing can get the blood moving in a glow from foot to head, like sap rising in the spring.

She taps into a feeling of open awareness.

That feeling may come outdoors. It may come working in a garden and feeling the earth, knowing how to care for the tough perennials and the shrubs, the woodland ferns and the wildflowers.


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