As the months of a year pass by, we experience nature through the seasons. A good deal is viewed through the life of a leaf. New buds begin in the spring and grow throughout the summer. In the fall, they begin to turn color, offering a gorgeous view for the foliage followers or as we see the colors unfold outside our windows. The leaves are often an early childhood science lesson. As a child collects them, they can examine the colors and the many different shapes they take. This offers insight into the nature that surrounds them. Leaves tell us when it is time to begin again. The expression “turning over a new leaf” needs no further explanation.
Parents who need help describing death to children find some help in the book “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf,” by Leo Buscaglia. The story of the life cycle of a leaf is an allegory about death. Freddie begins his life on a tree and when it is time for him to “die,” he drops off and returns to the earth.
We also see the important symbolism of our family tree, combining the trunk, branches and leaves to represent the individuals of a family as it grows and to remember previous generations that have left this world.
When the Torah is returned to the ark, a prayer is said that refers to it as a Tree of Life for all who grasp it. In B’nai B’rith, individuals and lodges are honored and memorialized on the Tree of Life that graces our world headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is a permanent way to provide a lasting tribute for someone special who can be remembered in this wonderful display of leaves. For information about dedications visit https://www.bnaibrith.org/treeoflife.html.
I often find that no matter what we see in nature, there is usually a song to accompany it as words need to paint a picture for the listener. Thinking about leaves, several examples came to mind. The Mamas and the Papas described the seasonal difference between the coasts with “All the Leaves are Brown.” In 1955, Nat King Cole sang about a lost love and regret in the song “When Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall.” A short Google search took me to the “roots” of this song—a French poem, “Les Fuilles Mortes.” That poem was originally written in 1945 and set to music in 1947 for the French singer Yves Montand.
A new secular year is beginning. The calendar takes shape with the annual events finding their place and special projects created to respond to a need or interest in the Jewish community and the world. These programs and projects are the basis of the active agenda of B’nai B’rith. Whether it is offered in person or as a virtual experience, it is meant to interest and involve the participant.
As every gardener knows, the beautiful and functional garden requires planning long before the planting can begin. The leaves that fall to the ground go back into the earth and serve their purpose. They create nurturing soil and protect tender roots or bulbs that have been planted in the fall to be ready for spring or return to their resting state, ready to bloom again when it is time.
As we turn over a new leaf on this year’s calendar, I hope that this year brings health and good things to you and all you hold dear.
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B’nai B’rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B’nai B’rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B’nai B’rith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. Rhonda has served on the B’nai B’rith International staff for 41 years. To view some of her additional content, click here.