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January 17, 2003 - Image 75

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-01-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

grow

The Trees Of Life

At-A-Glance: The story of Tu b'Shevat.

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM
AppleTree Editor

• What the words mean: Shevat
is the name of a month on the
Jewish calendar. In the Hebrew
alphabet, each letter also repre-
sents a numerical value, so the
number 15 is written as tet vav,
which forms the acronym "tu."
The second part, b'Shevat,
means "in Shevat." Thus, Tu
b'Shevat means "15th of Shevat."

• When it occurs this year:
Tomorrow, Sat. Jan. 18.

• What it is: In Halachah (Jewish
law), the 15th day of Shevat is
the cutoff date for tithing fruits
from trees. In ancient Israel, every
Jewish farmer gave a percentage
of his produce to the priests and
Levites to maintain the Temple in
Jerusalem. In Hebrew, this is
known as terumah, a tithe. Tree-
borne fruit that came from blos-
soms formed before the 15th of
Shevat belonged to the current
tithing year and fruit from blos-
soms that formed after the 15th
were designated for the next year. •

• How it is observed: Today,
whether in or outside of Israel,
there is no tithing because there
is no Temple.
For most Jews in ancient times,
Tu b'Shevat was nothing more •
than a bookkeeping day. Through
the generations, however, the
15th took on spiritual characteris-
tics. Sephardic Jews, especially,
embraced the day's spiritual
dimensions. They were joined in
the 16th century, by Jewish mys-
tics of Tzefat (a town in northern
Israel, often transliterated as
Safad), and by the authors of the
Kabbalah (system of Jewish mys-
ticism).

Over the years, many customs
have developed for the day, includ-
ing liturgical readings and a festive
meal based upon the Pesach seder,
complete with four cups of wine.
Today, it is customary among all
Jews, whether Ashkenazic or
Sephardic, to eat fruit from trees,
especially fruit imported from
Israel or that, by tradition, is
native to Israel. If eating a fruit for
the first time this (Jewish) year, the
Shehechiyanu (blessing of grati-
tude) is said. In Israel, some people
plant trees in honor of Tu
b'Shevat.

• Rules and regulations: Tachnun,
the penitential daily prayer, is not
recited. Some recite Psalm 104
(Borchi Nafi hi) and also the 15
psalms that begin Shir Ha-Maalot
(Song of Ascent), 120-134. ❑

Photos by Kelly Victor

Clockwise from the top:

Sydney Finn, 3, of Wiest Bloomfield takes a scoop
of potting soil at a tree-planting activity at Adat Shalom
Nursery School.

Teacher Gaye Taub helps Julia Bienstock, 3,
of Farmington Hills plant a seed.

Ethan Shimones, 3, of Redford wields a spade.

1/17

2003

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