web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event

Q & A: Tu B’Shevat: The Hidden, The Revealed


Question: Why is Tu B’Shevat, known as the New Year for Trees, in the middle of the month and not at the beginning of the month – like all other New Years?

Pesach Bernstein
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The first mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashanah lists the various New Years. Each of them, like you write, falls on the first of the month except for Tu B’Shevat.

There are exceptions, however. For example, the Gemara (ibid., 4a) asks regarding the New Year for festivals (which is also used to reckon the years of a king’s reign): “How can the New Year for the festivals be on the first of Nissan, when surely it is on the 15th of Nissan?” The Gemara answers that the mishnah means to say that the festival, Pesach, that occurs in the first month of the year marks the New Year for festivals. The New Year itself, though, starts on the 15th.

Two additional New Years – not enumerated in our mishnah – also do not fall on the first of the month. The New Year relating to the omer – the sacrifice that permitted one to partake of newly harvested grains of the five species throughout the land – occurs on the 16th of Nissan, and the New Year for the shetei halechem (two loaves) – permitting the use of flour from newly harvested grains for meal-offerings in the Beit Hamikdash – occurs on the 6th of Sivan. The Gemara explains that the mishnah does not list these two New Years because they start during the day rather than the previous night.

Thus, we see that Tu B’Shevat is not that unique. However, perhaps it appears to be so because it is the only New Year listed in the mishnah that does not occur on the first of the month (in some sense of the word) according to Beit Hillel, whose ruling we follow. Beit Hillel states that sufficient rain has fallen by the 15th of Shevat, enabling trees to blossom. We therefore set the New Year for trees at that point.

For a more esoteric understanding of the significance of the 15th of Shevat as the New Year for trees, we turn to the author of the chassidic work, Ohev Yisrael by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta, who discusses this matter. We glean from his words:

“Regarding Tu B’Shevat, we must know and understand why it is stated specifically there (in the mishnah), ‘The New Year of the Tree, according to Beit Hillel, is on the 15th of Shevat, while according to Beit Shammai it is on the first of Shevat.’ It is also important to understand the reference to ‘tree’ in the singular, when it should have stated [the New Year of the] Trees, in the plural.

“We must answer that it states in the Torah (Deuteronomy 20:19), ‘For man is the tree of the field.’ [Here the author is alluding to the interpretation in Gemara Ta'anit 7a.] Just as the tree possesses roots, branches, leaves and fruit, so does the Jew possess all these because of his good deeds. How are these drawn to man? They stem from their source, the root of the Jewish soul, which is the Holy Tree – the Tree of Life under which all Creation’s animals and birds of the skies seek shelter. It is the tree that is blessed so that all its shoots are like it.

“The word ilan [tree in Hebrew] is numerically equivalent to the two Holy Names, Havaya and Adnut (their combined total is 91). This is in accordance with the hidden meaning of ‘Tzaddik katamar yifrach – A righteous man shall blossom as the date tree…’ (Psalms 93:13). Just as the palm tree has the means of propagating itself, so, too, do the righteous bring forth those that will propagate themselves.”

Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel continues with a citation from Tractate Rosh Hashanah (10b-11a). R. Yehoshua claims the world was created in Nissan, but R. Eliezer argues it was created in Tishrei. (These two months both launch the beginning of a different half of the year.) Rabbi Heschel points out that both these statements are “the living words of G-d” – both are true in some sense. He explains: “On [the first of] Tishrei the thought came to His mind to create the world, as the paytan notes [in our Rosh Hashanah liturgy], ‘Hayom harat olam – Today You have conceived the world.’ However, the actual creation was in Nissan.”

He then offers a lengthy explanation, comparing the tree to the original Creation by presenting the month of Shevat as a microcosm of the 12 months of the year and dividing Shevat into two parts. He compares the first half of the month to the conception of trees – the part of creation that is hidden. This is actually the essence of Beit Shammai‘s opinion, whose rulings hold sway in the Heavenly Court. Beit Hillel, on the other hand, represents that which is revealed – like the blossoming of trees. For the most part, blossoms appear on the first day of the second half of the month – Tu B’Shevat.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Q & A: Tu B’Shevat: The Hidden, The Revealed”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS in Quneitra
Updates from Kuneitra, Syria [video]
Latest Judaism Stories

First, how could a beis din of 23 judges present a guilty verdict in a capital punishment case? After all, only a majority of the 23 judges ruled in favor of his verdict.

Of paramount importance is that both the king and his people realize that while he is the leader, he is still a subject of God.


Untimely News
‘A Mourner Is Forbidden To Wear Shoes…’
(Mo’ed Katan 20b)


Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Via Email

When a person feels he can control the destiny of other people, he runs the risk of feeling self-important, significant, and mighty.

Needless to say, it was done and they formed a great relationship as his friend and mentor. He started attending services and volunteered his time all along putting on tefillin.

He took me to a room filled with computer equipment and said, “You pray here for as long as you want.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

On Friday afternoon, Dov called Kalman. “Please make sure to return the keys for the car on Motzaei Shabbos,” he said. “We have a bris on Sunday morning and we’re all going. We also need the roof luggage bag.”

On Chol HaMoed some work is prohibited and some is permitted. According to some opinions, the work prohibition is biblical; according to others, it’s rabbinical.

If there is a mitzvas minuy dayanim in the Diaspora, then why is there a difference between Israel and the Diaspora in the number of judges and their distribution?

Judaism is a religion of love but also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts.

The time immediately preceding Mashiach’s arrival is likened to the birth pangs of a woman in labor.

Eisenhower understood that motivated men will fight much harder and longer than unmotivated men.

Who does not want to get close to Hashem? Yet, how do we do that?

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Via Email

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Via Email

A CPE class at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn was tailor made for Orthodox participants.

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

Via Email

Question: The Gemara in Berachot states that the sages authored our prayers. Does that mean we didn’t pray beforehand?

(Via E-Mail)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-tu-bshevat-the-hidden-the-revealed/2012/02/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: