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A NEW YEAR IN THE MIDDLE OF WINTER

01/12/2024 12:42:04 PM

Jan12

If you think about it, there are lots of starting points throughout the year. The first of Elul, is the beginning of the tax year for animals. For Maaser (tax) purposes, all animals born after the first of Ellul are taxed the following year.

Rosh Hashana, on the first of Tishrei, begins a period of judgement for mankind.

The first of Nisan is called the "first month" in the Torah, commemorating a cycle of freedom for the Jews when they left Mitzrayim (Egypt).

NEW YEAR FOR WHAT??

The same rule counts when it comes to Tu B'Shvat, the "New Year of the Trees." It’s a flowery way to say, "tax season begins now...." In the time of the Bait Hamikdash (Holy Temple) farmers were taxed on their crops and produce as well as their animals.

The Mitzvot relating to crops and produce are only practiced in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel).

The question remains: Why is this new year in the month of Shvat? The Talmud, Tractate Rosh HaShana tells us that by this point in the year, most of the rainfall to come during the year has already arrived. Therefore, the trees have already started to grow, and this is the time when fruits begin forming on the trees. Because the fruits begin to grow at this time, it is fitting that we start the New Year for the tree (which has significance to the fruits produced and the gifts the fruit are subject to) at this time.

In Eretz Yisrael, the 15th of Shvat is the day when new sap starts to rise in the trees. It is a time of rejuvenation. It teaches us the important lesson that even in times that seem darkest, there is new life, in times of sorrow there is hope, and in times of Galut, (exile) there is the light of Mashiach.

What better way to celebrate the birthday of trees than to actually plant a tree. There are all kinds of organizations and groups that are dedicated to planting trees in the forests of Eretz Yisrael. You can also plant a tree in your own neck of the woods if you want to. Tu B'Shvat is the perfect time to protest deforestation and the shrinking of the rain forests, although there's no particular mitzvah to do so.

There are varied customs regarding eating fruit on Tu B'Shvat. Some have the custom of eating the seven species of fruits that grow in Eretz Yisrael. This "Top Seven" selection are WHEAT and BARLEY and (GRAPE) VINES and FIG trees and POMEGRANATES, a land of OLIVE trees and (DATE) honey." Others have a custom of eating fifteen species of fruit (the "top 7" and eight more). In today’s "global fruitopia," where fruits from all over the world are available from our grocers, we mix it up: starting with the "top 7", we move on to local fruity favorites and throw in a "new fruit" (that we haven't eaten this year) in order to be able to make the Bracha (blessing) of Shehechiyanu.

Happy New Year!

Sun, April 14 2024 6 Nisan 5784