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February 02, 1996 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-02-02

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• R o il

Fruit Of The Tree

Tu B'Shevat, which begins Feb. 4, offers Jews the
opportunLy to celebrate their connection to the Earth
in creative ways.

Robert S tewart Photography


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f a sapling were in your hand their fruit trees. To determine how
and you were told the messiah much was owed, the 15th of She-
had come," the tradition goes, vat became the date dividing one
"first plant the sapling and growing year from the next.
then go out to greet the messiah."
So important is humanity's re- 15 Steps
sponsibility to guard and tend na-
ture, this teaching seems to say, The Temple was destroyed in 70
that even the long-awaited mes- CE, and with it tithing. But Jews
siah would be willing to wait a lit- continued to mark Tu B'Shevat.
tle, if it meant creation would be For Jews in the Diaspora, the fes-
tival was an enduring connection
one step closer to perfection.
This intimate relation between to the land of Israel and its pro-
Jews, the environment and the duce.
In some communi-
creator of both is at the
ties, Jews sang Psalm
heart of Tu B'Shevat, the
New Year of Trees, Jewish shcoolchildren 104 and the 15 Psalms
watch as a laborer
of Ascent (Psalms 120-
which begins at sun-
plants a tree at a
134), which the Levites
down, Sunday, Feb. 4.
settlement in the
were believed to have
Tu B'Shevat— which
West Bank.
sung on the 15 steps
means the 15th day in
leading up to the Tem-
the month of Shevat —
is a minor festival in the Jewish ple.
The custom also arose to eat 15
year. But because there is no pre-
scribed prayer or ritual, the day types of fruit, particularly five
offers Jews the opportunity to cel- fruits and two grains associated
ebrate their connection to the with Israel that were mentioned
in Deuteronomy 8:8 — wheat, bar-
earth in creative ways.
Tu comes from the Hebrew let- ley, grapes, figs, pomegranates,
ters tet and vav which, in Jewish olives and date honey.
Another food eaten was carob
numerology, correspond to nine
and six, equaling 15. Why don't (bokser in Yiddish), the food the
we add 10 and 5 to equal 15, the mystical Shimon bar Yochai was
holiday's date? Because yod (10) said to have eaten while hiding
and hei (5) together spell the name from the Romans in a cave.
of God.
Other names for the holiday are God's Rosh Hashanah
Chag Ha'ilanot, The Festival of
Trees, and Chag Haperot, the Fes- The 16th century kabbalists of
Safed, in northern Israel, saw Tu
tival of Fruits.
B'Shevat in a mystical light.
They noted that a metaphor for
Tax Season
the Torah was the Tree of Life.
When the Temple stood, the Is- And one of their mystical images
raelites were taxed, or tithed, one of God was a tree.
Since Tu B'Shevat is the new
tenth of their income, including
year of the fie, the kabbalists saw
David Holzel is managing editor
the day as God's Rosh Hashanah.
of our sister paper, the Atlanta
Just as Jews are renewed on Rosh
Jewish Times.
Hashanah, God and the mystical

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