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January 20, 1989 - Image 65

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-20

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A Toast
To Jewish Living

Tu B'Shevat: The Celebration Of Trees


Edward Rosenthal is the
regional director of the Jewish
National Fund. For each issue of
L'Chayim, a rabbi, a Jewish
educator or other notable from the
community will present an overview
of the month's theme.

The Jewish calendar, with all its
holidays, is tied to the cycle of
growing things. To more than any
other green thing, the religion of the
Jews is tied to trees. The tree is not
just another plant in the Bible; it is
the symbol of life, the symbol of
man, the symbol of the Jewish
According to the Bible, God put
two trees in the middle of the
Garden of Eden: the tree of
knowledge and the tree of life —
Etz Chayim. Although war was a
part of everyday life in ancient days,
Jews had to follow special rules

"As the prophet Isaiah
said, 'As the days of a
tree, so shall be the days
of my people. 55

even in war. The Torah says that
Jews cannot make war on trees.
When they besieged a city, even if
they needed trees to build war
machines, they did not cut down
trees. As the prophet Isaiah said,
"As the days of a tree, so shall be
the days of my people."
The special regard of the Jews
for trees may have developed
because they lived in a hot climate.
There trees are particularly
precious. In the wilderness a tree
means water, food and shade. Any
of these may mean life. When trees
are cut down, the desert creeps in.
The Land of Israel was a land of
milk and honey in the days of the
Bible. It became a land of rocks and
sand after the Jews were driven
from the land, and the trees were
cut down. As Jews reclaimed the

Continued on Page L-2

Tu B'Shevat — A Jewish Link To Israel


In the days of the Torah and
later when the Temple stood in
Jerusalem, Tu B'Shevat was a day
for calculating the age of trees, a
point of concern with regard to
agricultural laws. Tu B'Shevat had
an inherent link with the physical
land of Israel.
As Jews began to live outside
of Israel, it would have made sense
for any observance of Tu B'Shevat
to disappear since the agricultural
laws generally did not apply in
these Diaspora communities.
Instead, new customs developed
which strengthened Jewish ties to
their homeland. Tu B'Shevat
continued to be a day associated

with trees and the fruit which they
bear. More important, Tu B'Shevat
became a day on which Jews
throughout the world
commemorated their connection to
the Land of Israel.
One Tu B'Shevat custom which
has existed throughout much of
Jewish history is the practice of
eating fruit associated with the Land
of Israel. A verse in the Book of
Deuteronomy tells of five fruits
(along with two grains) which are
native to Israel: grapes, figs,
pomegranates, olives and dates. To
this list we add almonds, which are
believed to be the first to blossom
of all trees in Israel. Carob is
another popular Tu B'Shevat fruit.
Carob gained popularity because it

was able to be shipped from Israel
to many distant areas without
The kabbalists of 16th Century
Safed expanded on the concept of
eating fruits on Tu B'Shevat and
added greater significance to the
holiday with the creation of a Tu
B'Shevat seder. Their seder, which
is loosely based on the Passover
seder, is found in a text entitled Peri
Etz Hadar — "The fruit of the
goodly tree," a phrase used in the
Torah to represent the etrog of
Sukkot. Others have composed a
similar seder with slight variations.
The Tu B'Shevat seder generally
consists of four cups of wine, the
recitation of appropriate verses and
Continued on Page L-3

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