Karen Feuer

My Abortion Story Part II: Tu B’Shevat

16 years ago, I was at an advanced stage of pregnancy with twins. When suddenly the pregnancy became unsafe for me, I consulted with doctors and rabbis and ultimately made the difficult decision to abort. It was a gut-wrenching experience, which I recently publicized for the first time in the blog called My Abortion Story. Despite my heartache, I took great comfort in the fact that I had two beautiful daughters at home. I also drew immense strength and hope from the midwife who, after the procedure was all over, blessed me to be back in the hospital within a year for a much happier birth. The date was erev Tu B’Shevat, 14 Shevat.

I have come to appreciate the significance of Tu B’Shevat since then. This is partly because of the timing of the abortion and partly because it’s been 16 more years of parenting since then. Tu B’Shevat has special significance for parents because it is a holiday about potential, about what you don’t see. It’s about the faith that seeds are sprouting below the ground and sap is rising in the trees preparing for blossom. It is easy to see how these images relate to child-rearing. You “water” and “till” your children, or “seedlings,” and yet the final product is really not up to you. You don’t know exactly how the fruit will turn out because so many factors lie outside of your control. Nonetheless, through all your labors you trust that your efforts are causing growth. Sometimes this growth is visible, but most of the time it remains hidden away until a much later season. I now better understand the challenge of training the eye to see the smallest buds in my children and, indeed, in the world at large.

The other aspect of Tu B’Shevat which I have come to deeply appreciate is the power of our words to give hope, and therefore bear their own fruit.

There are many manifestations of the Tu B’Shevat seder, yet they all have something in common: the centrality of brachot on the various fruits. Making a blessing before the very physical act of eating elevates reality. You could even say we shape reality by insisting that more exists than the physical sustenance in front of us. To bless is to acknowledge a greater spiritual reality.

16 years ago, with that midwife’s blessing, I felt hope inside me rise. For the sake of my Tu B’Shevat metaphors, you could call this the sap that rises in the tree well before the blossoms are visible. It was a fleeting feeling. After all, at the time I was filled with emptiness and sorrow, physically and emotionally. But I remember that moment, that tiny moment of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could be back in that hospital one day soon with a much happier ending.

Exactly one year less a day later, 13 Shevat, I held a healthy baby girl in my arms. We named her Tamar. The Tamar fruit is significant in that it is one of the sweetest fruits and yet the tree itself flourishes from bitter, salty waters. In Hebrew Tamar means “the end of bitterness.”

My Tamar continues to bring much sweetness into the world and reminds me of  Tu B’Shevat’s subtle message about hope. Hope can sprout even in the dead of winter. You just might not see its fruits for a while.

Happy 15th Birthday, Tamar!

About the Author
Karen Feuer made Aliyah from the United States in 2002 and lives with her husband and five children in Ma’aleh Adumim. She works in administration at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and is a certified medical clown. She is an activist against Israeli security exports to murderous regimes.
Related Topics
Related Posts