web analytics
November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Slow, Steady Growth

Hoff-020312

After three-plus years of economic challenge and uncertainty, we remain anxious for positive news, the kind that will finally let us believe the worst is fully behind us. Unfortunately, the outlook for the 2012 global economy remains uninspiring: recession in Europe, anemic growth in the U.S. and a sharp slowdown in China and other emerging-market economies all weigh on economist forecasts. Middle East turmoil means oil prices will likely remain high and continue to constrain global growth.

Even the news that the U.S. economy picked up speed at the end of 2011 – GDP grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the last quarter as businesses substantially built up their inventories and consumers increased their spending – could not lift investor spirits much. The news seems to fit neatly with the Federal Reserve’s lower outlook for the economy; it announced last week that it plans to keep the federal funds rate near zero until late 2014 because the recovery remains too slow to warrant higher interest rates.

While the recovery has taken much longer than originally hoped, most economists remain confident the worst is behind us. We remain in a slow pattern of growth, particularly in the U.S., and will need to continue to learn lessons from past errors as we seek to pull ourselves out of this fiscal morass.

Perhaps we can glean some additional insight into this process of decline and restoration from Tu B’Shevat, the traditional New Year for trees.

Tu B’Shevat draws our collective attention to nature’s inherent cycles of deterioration and growth. The botanical realm follows a steady, predictable pattern of budding and development, and, eventually, stagnation and decay, only to be followed again by a new period of advance and vitality.

History has shown that this cycle also applies to the human condition. On both a personal and national level, life is full of highs and lows, gains and losses, successes and failures. The Torah itself alludes to this symmetry between man and botany when it compares us to trees (Devarim 20:19).

While this cyclical aspect of nature is apparent throughout the year, it is most perceptible when one observes the extreme disparity between the seasons of winter and spring. Winter represents stagnation and unrealized potential, when all signs of growth lie hidden from sight. There are no external signs of development, no expressions of vitality.

Spring, on the other hand, symbolizes burgeoning vigor. Everything is new and exciting. Trees that have remained dormant for months start to show new signs of life. Buds begin to sprout, flowers start to open. Nature once again reveals its true beauty.

For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing bird has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. [Shir Hashirim 2:11-12]

This same contrast applies to human life. Circumstances sometimes force us into our own personal or collective “winter,” when struggles and challenges strip us of our innate vitality. There are other times in which we seemingly experience only joy and excitement in our lives. Everything points toward growth and accomplishment. We must realize, however, that there are two distinct ways for a person to approach the winter-like situations in his own life. The aforementioned contrast between winter and spring is only true if one views winter as the death-knell of summer. The beauty of the seasonal cycle, however, is that one can alternatively view winter as ushering in the upcoming spring. No matter what challenges a person faces, there are always better days awaiting him. Such a person knows no limitations, no dormancy. Life is a continuous cycle pointed in the direction of growth.

This is the message of Tu B’Shevat. In the middle of the winter, when everything around us seems so cold and bleak, think of spring. Eat fruit. Sing joyous tunes. Plant new trees. Always look for the good.

But the message goes one step further. Not only are we charged to maintain a continuously upbeat attitude regardless of our personal circumstances, we must also realize that those very circumstances are the ones that form the basis of our eventual success. The basis for our success, namely the trials and challenges we have had to overcome, is already in place. The only difference is that this foundation still lives in the realm of potential, hidden from the outside world. It takes the warmth of spring, literally and in our own lives, to allow that potential to blossom into its eventual reality (see Ramban’s commentary to Bereishis 22:1).

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for winter itself, choref, illustrates this exact point. Rabbis Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that choref is related to the word charfi, which means dormant vigor. “As I was in the days of my winter [i.e. dormant vigor]” (Iyov 29:4). Winter here alludes to the days of a person’s youth, a time when his vast talents are waiting to emerge. It is a person’s “spring” that helps to bring those latent talents to the forefront.

If Tu B’Shevat and human history are to serve as any indications, we can take comfort in the knowledge that we will once again rise above our current malaise and experience collective joy and prosperity. But it may not be quick, and it may not be easy. In the end, we will see better days and use the important lessons learned from our past follies and indiscretions to build a better tomorrow for ourselves and the world around us.

Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is Head of School at Torah Day School of Atlanta. He can be reached at nhoff@torahday.org.

About the Author: Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting (www.ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at President@ImpactfulCoaching.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Slow, Steady Growth”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Looters in Ferguson wore masks to avoid being identified -- but the kafiyehs worn by some provided a clue to possible identities.
Ferguson Fuels Unrest in America But Israel is Blamed
Latest Indepth Stories
Red Line Obama

“What’s a line between friends?”

West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)

Unrest in YESHA and J’m helps Abbas and Abdullah defuse anger, gain politically and appear moderates

Thousands of rabbis pose in front of Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn on Sunday during the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.

A “Shliach” means to do acts with complete devotion and dedication in order to help bring Moshiach.

Arabs create opening for terrorists to walk the security wall between Ramallah and Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The pogroms in Chevron took place eighty five years ago, in 1929; the Holocaust began seventy-five years ago in 1939; the joint attack of Israel’s neighbors against the Jewish State of Israel happened sixty-six years ago… yet, world history of anti-Semitism did not stop there, but continues until today. Yes, the primitive reality of Jews […]

“We don’t just care for the children; we make sure they have the best quality of life.”

“Why do people get complacent with the things they’re told?”

Arab opposition to a Jewish State of any size was made known by word and deed in the form of terror

Operation Moses: First time in history that non-blacks came to Africa to free blacks from oppression

As Arabs murder and maim Jews, Jordan’s leaders bark the blood libel of “Israeli aggression.”

Perhaps attacking a terrorist’s legacy broadly and publicly would dissuade others from terrorism?

R’ Aryeh yelled “Run, I’ll fight!” Using a chair against terrorists to buy time so others could flee

Riot started when Muslim students wore the Pal. kaffiyeh and Druze students demanded them removed

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

Having a strong community presence at the polls shows our elected officials we care about the issues

More Articles from Rabbi Naphtali Hoff

Where did this incredible strength come from? What drove these Jews, who had nearly lost all of their national identity and spiritual connectivity, to risk their lives by standing up against one of the strongest and most fearsome governments of its time?

Of all the Jewish holidays, I would say Sukkos is far and away the least appreciated.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

“If Israel’s offering of land, economic improvements, and even autonomy will not help, what will?”

For breaking his oath of allegiance, Tzidkiyahu was forced to witness the death of his sons before he himself was blinded and exiled to Babylon.

It’s as if Hamas has pulled a page out of Pharaoh’s handbook.

As a guide to others and a foremost member of the Great Assembly, Ezra provided strong leadership and a moral conscience to a people that had lost its way.

For our children, technology is not just another activity that is forbidden on Shabbos.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/slow-steady-growth/2012/02/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: