Tu B'Shevat: An Investment In The Future
Tu B'Shevat is regarded as a minor festival or a semi-holiday for
liturgical purposes. No penitential prayers are recited on Tu B'Shevat, nor
is fasting permitted. This year, it corresponds to Feb. 3.
It is believed that Tu B'Shevat may originally have been a folk festival
which marked the emergence of spring. At this time of the year, the priests
levied the tithes on the fruit trees. The tithes were then sent to the Temple
It is important to keep in mind that, when the word Israel is used, it
can refer to Israel the land (Eretz Yisrael), as well as to the people of Israel
(Am Yisrael). With the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and
with the dispersion of Jews throughout the Roman Empire, Eretz Yisrael
became almost devoid of Am Israel.
Now that the Jewish people once again have a thriving nation in Eretz
Yisrael. Tu B'Shevat has taken on new significance. Linked to the
magnificent accomplishments of the Jewish National Fund, the New Year of
the Trees has come to signify the rebirth of the Land of Israel and serves
as a symbol of hope for the rebirth and renewed strength of people
The act of planting a tree represents an investment in the future. When
a person plants a tree, he or she declares his belief that there will be a
future for children, and that they will reap the fruit of this generation's
Tu B'Shevat also came to be seen as the Day of Judgment for the
trees. On this day, it was believed, that God decided which trees would
flourish and bear fruit, and which would wither and die. This reflects the
belief that God is the Lord over all creation and exercises direct control
over all living things including humankind, animals and plants.
In addition to eating carob and planting trees on Tu B'Shevat, there
are other customs and practices associated with this festival.
Among Ashkenazic Jews, particularly those in Europe, Tu B'Shevat was
an occasion for eating 15 different kinds of fruit with preference given to
those varieties which can be found in Eretz Yisrael. Psalms 104 and
120-134, the Psalms of Ascension and special liturgical poems were read.
Among Sephardic Jews, there are a series of special customs as well
as a distinctive terminology which draws heavily upon Ladino, a language
which is a blend of Spanish and Hebrew. Tu B'Shevat is called "Frutas,"
meaning Festival of Fruits. It is also known as "Rosasana des Arbores" or
Rosh Hashanah of the Trees. Special poems called "complas" are sung.
Children are given small bags with their names embroidered on them and
filled with nuts. These are worn as festive pendants around their necks.
es 11' 1
octv e• BermanlBermann
Bear Of A Name
Kenny Berman of Beth Shalom
Religious School has inquired about
his name origin. Berman/Bermann/
all Ashkenazic names. They were
used by German, Russian, Austrian
and Hungarian families, and were
derived from the German "Bar"
meaning bear. The Jews adopted
these names because they were the
German translation of what the
Patriarch Jacob called his children.
Many Jewish boys were named Ber,
Beril, Baerush and Baerke. From
this we conclude that the above
names meant son of Ber or Beril.
The Encyclopaedia Judaica,
Jerusalem, 1971, and the Universal
Jewish Encyclopaedia, N.Y.
1939-1948, have articles on the
Mr. and Mrs. William Levitt of
Oak Park have inquired about the
origins of Levitt and Elbinger.
Levittee/Levite donates the lineage
of these families. The name was
traditionally adopted by male
members of the Levites —
descendants of Levi.
Elbinger may be a variation of
the name Ellbogen, derived from a
location — the city of Ellbogen,
Germany. The family
Ellenbogen/Katzenelson can trace
their history to Rabbi Meir ben
Isaac of 1480 Venice. This is an old
family which spread to Poland,
Germany France, England and the
United States. There is even a
myth, that Saul Wahl (1541-1617), a
member of this large clan, was king
FRIDAY, JANUARY 22, 1988
of Poland for a day. The
Encyclopaedia Judaica has
extensive material on this family.
The Unbroken Chain by Neil
Rosenstein contains the genealogy
of all of the branches.
Epsteen comes from a geographic
location — Eppstein, Germany, or
Ebstein, Styria, Austria. This name
was first used by the Jewish people
in 1392 and is one of the oldest
Lublin is a name derived
from the town of the same name,
Missy Silver of Beth Shalom
has inquired about the name Silver.
The name indicates that an
ancestor was either a silversmith or
a dealer in silver.
Nadiv is a name of Israeli
origin. Many Israelis changed their
European surnames, as did their
French and American cousins. It is
not always possible to trace the
source of changed or altered
names. In the case of Nadiv,
however, we found some clues. In
previous articles we discussed the
cruel practices of some naming
officers in the assignment of Jewish
surnames. With an ironic twist,
Israelis have reversed this old
injustice. Nadiv is one such case.
the European name was probably
Kabtzan, meaning poor or poverty
striken. Nadiv in Hebrew is just the
opposite, meaning noble or wealthy.
Betty Provizer Starkman is the
past president and founder of the
genealogical branch of the Jewish
Historical Society of Michigan.
Hebrew Word Search For Tu B'Shevat
Copyright 0 1986 by Marcia Roscoe