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August 30, 2016 / 26 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘trees’

Coping With Irene’s Wrath: New Yorkers Tell Their Stories

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011


As Hurricane Irene barreled toward New York late last week, city officials, still smarting over what critics called a tentative response to the great blizzard of 2010, acted proactively, shutting down mass transit and ordering a mandatory evacuation in zones expected to be directly in the path of the massive storm.


The mandatory evacuation order, which covered Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, Seagate, the Rockaways and parts of Staten Island, was issued Friday afternoon, with people told to leave their homes by 5 p.m. the next day. While that gave residents more than 24 hours to make their preparations, thousands of Orthodox Jews living in the designated areas as well as in neighboring parts of Nassau County, including the Five Towns and Long Beach, had just hours until the onset of the Sabbath. They all wrestled with the same question: Where to spend Shabbos?


Phone calls, text messages, e-mails and posts on Jewish news sites were used to circulate information, including a steady stream of evacuation updates and halachic guidelines for which emergency actions were permissible on Shabbos.

 

 


Downed tree in Brooklyn testifies to Irene’s fury.

Hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm

but left penty of damage in its wake.

 

The Orthodox Union issued hurricane guidelines originally produced by Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, advising people to keep yahrzeit candles and flashlights lit over Shabbos and to have a radio on at a low volume in a side room for emergency bulletins. In the event that Irene made landfall on Shabbos, the guidelines urged everyone to daven at home and to assume their eruv was down, but allowed for carrying, preferably in an irregular fashion, in case of medical need, danger to life and limb and for the elderly and small children.


Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Meisels, the Seagate Rav, urged residents of Coney Island and Seagate to leave their homes to avoid potential chillul Shabbos should they be forced to evacuate on Saturday, and the Agudath Israel of Bayswater sent an e-mail at 4:38 Friday afternoon informing area residents of Zone B, which included Far Rockaway, Bayswater and Belle Harbor, that if they had a place to go for Shabbos they were halachically required to leave the area.


Several shelters were opened to accommodate those who needed food and lodging for Shabbos, including in Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv in Far Rockaway and in Young Israel of Bayswater.


Achiezer, a Far Rockaway-based community resource center, offered placement for families in both West Hempstead and at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim in Kew Gardens Hills.

 

 


 


Water reached almost five feet high at the

Sun Circle Bungalow Colony in South Fallsburg, N.Y.

 

Some sought temporary shelter with friends or relatives. Others were steadfast in their decision to stay home. Many found they simply did not have enough time to pack up and leave before Shabbos and were left wondering if they would be forcibly removed from their homes once the evacuation deadline passed.


As it turned out, Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it arrived in New York. So for most area residents, the much ballyhooed monster hurricane was at worst a soggy inconvenience. But in at least three cases in the Jewish community, the hurricane left tragic consequences in its wake.


David Reichenberg, a 50-year-old Orthodox Jewish father of four from Spring Valley, died saving a father and his 6-year-old son from a downed power line. Reichenberg came into contact with the live wire and was electrocuted.


Reichenberg had stopped to help the boy and his father who were viewing damage outside their home in Rockland County. The boy had touched a metal fence electrified by a fallen wire. Reichenberg pulled the two from the fence, but could not escape himself, witness Moishe Lichtenstein told the New York Daily News.


“When I got there the victim was on the ground and he was touching the wire, which was in the water,” Lichtenstein said. “When emergency officials got there, they couldn’t touch him. We were standing there for like five or 10 minutes. We were just praying, ‘God help this man.’ “


In an interview with JTA, a longtime friend of Reichenberg, Rabbi Avrohom Braun, described the deceased as an “upbeat person with unshakable faith.” Rabbi Braun is director of admissions and education at Ohr Somayach yeshiva, which Reichenberg attended 25 years ago. Every morning, Reichenberg, who ran a sign-making shop, would attend 6 a.m. classes before opening his store, Rabbi Braun said. He also said Reichenberg regularly volunteered to help coordinate Shabbos meals for impoverished families in Rockland County, which has a large population of Orthodox Jews.


Michael Kenwood, 39, also died while attempting to help others. A volunteer first aid worker from Princeton, N.J., Kenwood was checking a submerged car that rescuers thought was occupied when he became untethered and slipped. Kenwood was swept away by the current and later was pulled unconscious from the waters.


Rozalia Gluck, a Holocaust survivor originally from Russia, died after she was trapped in a Catskills motel that was swept away by flood waters during the storm. She was 82.


In all, as of Tuesday afternoon some 48 deaths had been attributed to Irene.


* * *


Many of those who survived the storm encountered difficulties of their own. Among those who opted to stay home for Shabbos rather than evacuate was Chana, a resident of Bayswater who declined to give her last name. Living on the second floor of a residence located on higher ground, away from the bay, she felt confident she was out of harm’s way. Chana found Shabbos to be rainy but uneventful, though several rabbis told her she should have left the area.


After Shabbos, Chana and her neighbor heard news reports saying that power might be cut in their area and they decided to spend the night in West Hempstead. By about 9 a.m. Sunday, the house where Chana was staying had no phone, Internet or cable service. Across the street, there was no electricity and two houses had been hit by fallen trees, one of which had been split in half by lightning.


Chana left West Hempstead with her neighbor in the early afternoon; the area looked like a slalom course, with downed trees dotting the roads. Returning to Bayswater, an area that was supposed to be much harder hit by Irene, Chana reports that she saw only two fallen trees.


“I got home and everything was exactly where I had left it,” said Chana. “The garbage cans, the plants, the rosebushes, not a single item had been damaged. Bayswater was supposed to be the dangerous place to be, but it turns out that the place I went to escape Bayswater was hit even harder by Irene. I should have listened to my instincts and just stayed home. I think after Katrina and the big blizzard this year, everyone just panicked.”


Cedarhurst resident Sholom Jacobs had been contemplating going away for Shabbos with his family. Hearing news of the evacuations sealed the deal and the Jacobs family packed up their car and headed north, spending Shabbos in Monsey and Motzaei Shabbos at the Pearl River Hilton, also in Rockland County. Heading back to Cedarhurst, he noted downed trees and some flooded streets. Jacobs was grateful to find everything in his house both dry and in working order, though friends informed him that many people in the low lying areas had water in their basements and numerous homes in Cedarhurst were without power. “I think Monsey and upstate got hit harder than we did,” said Jacobs.


Jacobs said he has no regrets about leaving for Shabbos.


“There is no way to predict exactly where these things will land and what the damage will be. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”


Joseph Horowitz of Lawrence was one of those who stayed home for Shabbos, but found the day very stressful.


“It was so close to Shabbos by the time we were told to leave that we weren’t comfortable leaving,” he said. “With so many people leaving the area and so much traffic, who really had time to get anywhere? Besides, many people stayed because they just didn’t have anywhere to go.”


In Shaaray Tefila, where Horowitz davens, those who stayed behind were clearly on edge. There were regular hurricane updates during the day and a visit from the mayor. Conversation centered around whether or not Maariv would be davened at the earliest possible time so that people could evacuate.


“Shabbos just didn’t feel like Shabbos,” said Horowitz.


While many people evacuated the Five Towns, there were some hardy souls who braved the elements and actually traveled to the evacuation zone for Shabbos.


“My friend was making a bar mitzvah in Cedarhurst,” explained Mindy, who only gave her first name. “We were almost at our destination when we found out about the mandatory evacuation order. We didn’t have enough time to turn around, sit in the traffic that was piling up on Rockaway Turnpike and still make it home in time for Shabbos. My friend came to my son’s wedding in the middle of a blizzard. Was I really going to miss her son’s bar mitzvah for a hurricane?”


Mindy and her husband found Shabbos to be rainy but calm. As Shabbos ended, there were people going around to the various shuls telling people to leave the area, so Mindy and her husband packed up and they drove home. They passed a few flooded streets but made it home in record time.


“Ten minutes after we left Cedarhurst they shut down Rockaway Turnpike,” Mindy said. “By the time we got home both Mayor Bloomberg and the Nassau County executive were telling everyone to just stay where they were. Thankfully we got out at just the right time.”


* * *


While New York City was hit less hard than anticipated, some rural vacation spots were not as lucky.


Menachem Bornstein of Far Rockaway spent last weekend with his wife’s family in Camp Morasha, located in Lake Como, Pennsylvania, where the torrential rains began after midnight on Motzaei Shabbos.

 

 


Workers at Camp Morasha remove a fallen tree from on top of a bunk.

(Photo courtesy of Menachem Bornstein)

 

“While we had a minyan over Shabbos, I had to drive about eight miles for a minyan on Sunday morning,” said Bornstein. “On my way back it was extremely windy with branches falling down, and as I got to the camp there was a huge fallen tree blocking the road. I stopped my car and that was when I began to smell smoke. I turned around and saw that there was smoke behind me – a tree had fallen and hit a power line.”


Bornstein called 911 and managed to get back into the camp by going with a janitor who had appeared on the scene.


By 11 a.m. Sunday the camp had neither water nor electricity. There were twelve fallen trees in the camp, including an extremely large tree that had fallen on Bornstein’s in-laws’ cabin but miraculously did not crash through the roof.


Camp cooks prepared the food by candlelight and large generator-powered floodlights were used in the dining room to provide light for the meals. While water was restored to the camp at 8:30 Sunday night, it took until late Monday afternoon for the electricity to come back on.


Despite the soggy weather, winds and other difficulties, Bornstein said his children had a great time.


(Additional reporting by JTA)

Sandy Eller

The Sprouting Of Mashiach

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
           What is it about Tu B’Shevat?
            There are four “Roshei Hashanah.”
The First of Tishrei we all know about. That is the day we blow the shofar.
The First of Nissan and the First of Elul come and go in our times without much notice.
             But Tu B’Shevat is different. There is a sense of simcha, a sense of hope and many minhagim associated with it: we eat fruit and make a Shehecheyanu. We omit Tachanun.
           What is different about Tu B’Shevat?
One reason for the simcha is the universal joy felt at the advent of spring, and Tu B’Shevat is a harbinger of spring. “For on this day the strength of the soil of Eretz Yisrael is renewed and it begins to yield its produce and demonstrate its inherent goodness” (Book of Our Heritage, page 331). Who does not experience a surge of hope when the snows melt, the air turns warm and the trees are filled with magnificent blossoms? It hints of techias hameisim, the resurrection of the dead.
   In fact, the blessing of techias hameisim in Shemoneh Esrei ends with the words “umatzmiach yeshuaand He causes salvation to sprout.”
   I would have thought the shofar sounding and Mashiach ben David riding in on a donkey is far from “sprouting,” but apparently not.
   Actually the blessing for Mashiach implies sprouting. Does it not say “tsemach David – the sprouting of David”?
   Why is Redemption compared to the agricultural process?
   I believe this can illuminate the nature of the geulah shelemah.
 
   Where did King David come from? His great-grandmother Ruth came from Moab, a nation founded in perversity and immorality (the relationship between Lot and his daughter). Mashiach is raised in darkness and appears from the most unlikely of all possible places. As we say in Psalms, “Even ma’asu habanim haisa l’rosh pina – the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone .” (Psalm 118). This refers to David, according to the Targum. No one, not even David’s own family, wanted to believe David had been selected by God to be the redeemer of Israel.
   What is a seed and how does it germinate? It lies in blackness and obscurity, under the ground, unseen by the world. No one knows where it is. Some people forget about it completely, and during the winter it is buried under snow and ice in the frozen earth. It requires rain. From where does the seed arise? It comes from the fruits of the past, which have died and rejoined the earth after having nourished past generations.
This is so much like Mashiach ben David. Mashiach also lies, so to speak, in obscurity. No one knows who Mashiach is and where he will arise. He requires tears just as the seed underground requires rain. And Mashiach arises from the past; he is the fruit of King David, who will come to nourish future generations just as his father nourished generations of the past.
What is the highest form of food? After the Flood, mankind was permitted meat in order to have the strength to live in the new and challenging world. What about before the Flood?
After the expulsion from the Garden, Hashem said to Adam, “accursed is the ground because of you. Through suffering you shall eat of it . Thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of your brow shall you eat of the bread until you return to the ground from which you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust shall you return” (Bereishis 3: 17-19).
   In other words, after the Expulsion mankind started eating herbs. After the Flood mankind started eating meat. What about before the Expulsion?
   It seems mankind was meant to eat fruit of the trees, from all types of trees except one.
   Why is the fruit of the tree the highest form of food?
   Herbs require destroying the plant. When you pull up a carrot from the ground you have uprooted the plant. There is no more carrot plant. You will eat, but you have destroyed a plant.
   When you eat meat, you have killed an animal. Your chicken or your steak or your fish required destruction of an animal.
   But the fruit of the tree is perfect. Nothing has been killed. The tree remains to produce more fruit and to bear beautiful blossoms and fruits. The fruit itself will produce more trees. In fact, I heard the brilliant Reb Zev Smith say he heard that if you plant one apple seed, it will grow into a tree, and then you take the apples from that tree and plant all their seeds, within twenty years you can feed the entire world from that one seed.

   This is Mashiach ben David. From this one “sprouting” seed of the Tree of Yishai the entire world will be saved. This is “tsemach David,” the sprouting of David. This is what excites and thrills us on Tu B’Shevat. We feel the sap pulsing in the trees and sense the imminent sprouting of the advent of Mashiach ben David, may we greet him soon in our days.

 

 

Roy Neuberger’s latest book, “2020 VISION” (Feldheim), is available at Jewish bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and online at Amazon.com. Roy can be contacted at roy@tosinai.com.

Roy S. Neuberger

Carmel Fire Aftermath: Mourning, Assessing, Finger Pointing

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

JERUSALEM – In the aftermath of the deadliest fire in Israel’s history, Israelis this week set to the task of burying the dead, cleaning up and figuring out what exactly went wrong – and who is to blame.

Even before the blaze in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa came under control Sunday afternoon, Israelis were asking why the country wasn’t better prepared for a wildfire of this magnitude. In all, 42 people were killed, about 250 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, 17,000 people were forced to evacuate, more than 12,000 acres were burned and an estimated 5 million trees were lost.

The damage to northern Israel was estimated at about $75 million, including damage to towns and kibbutzim, destroyed forests and damaged roads. Yemin Orde, a village founded in 1953 that has served as a home and school to thousands of immigrant youths, most recently Ethiopians and Russians, was severely burned. In Kibbutz Ein Hod, 10 houses and an art gallery were destroyed.

On Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet approved a $16.5 million aid package to assist damaged communities, and Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered that each person whose home suffered severe fire damage be given an immediate aid disbursement of about $700.

Calls came from many quarters for the resignation of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ministry is responsible for the state’s firefighting forces. Yishai is also accused of refusing fire truck donations from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Yishai said his ministry was not funded well enough to purchase needed equipment – in 2001, he noted, Ariel Sharon’s government voted to eliminate air support for fire fighting – and told Israel Radio that he was a target because of his Sephardic heritage.

Israel has 16 firefighters per 100,000 residents; by contrast, the United States, Japan and Greece have five to seven times that number per capital, The Associated Press reported. In total, Israel has 1,400 fire fighters.

A 14-year-old resident of the Druze village of Ussfiya was arrested Monday after admitting to starting the fire. The teen reportedly said he was smoking a nargila water pipe and threw a live coal into an open area before returning to school.

The arrest was announced hours after two teenage brothers from the same village arrested over the weekend on suspicion of negligence in starting the fire were released from detention by a Haifa court. The teens had been accused of lighting a bonfire near their home that sparked the blaze.

High winds and dry weather conditions provided fuel for the blaze, which began tearing through northern Israel on Dec. 2. Northern Israel is covered by fields and trees planted over the decades – many of them by pioneers during the British Mandate period. Others were planted by Diaspora Jews through the Jewish National Fund.

Meanwhile, numerous figures in the Arab world cited the fire as punishment from God for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and its occupation of Arab lands. The Palestinian prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, said the fire was a “strike from Allah.”

The spiritual leader of the Israeli Orthodox Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, also said the fire was divine punishment, attributing the blaze to the sin of lack of observance of the Sabbath.

During the height of the blaze, Israeli’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Shlomo Amar, led thousands in prayer at the Western Wall. Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger called on Israelis to give charity and read Psalms to bring about the fire’s end.

For its part, the Israeli government issued a rare call for international assistance. Among the countries that responded were Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Germany, Russia, France, Switzerland, Britain, Spain and the United States. The Palestinian Authority also sent 21 firefighters and four fire trucks to help battle the blaze.

Thirty-five firefighting airplanes came to Israel. New York sent a 747 loaded with Fire Troll 931, a fire retardant chemical, in a shipment organized by the New York City Fire Department and the office of the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Israel also rented the American Evergreen Boeing 747 Super Tanker, one of the most advanced firefighting planes in the world, loaded with 80,000 liters of water and fire retardant. It arrived early Sunday morning and had an immediate effect on helping douse the flames.

The deadliest incident came in the fire’s early hours when a bus carrying about three dozen cadets from the Israeli prisons service on their way to evacuate a prison threatened by the blaze became trapped between burning trees. Nearly all those aboard perished, and the bus was left a scorched shell.

Jewish communities in Denver and Winnipeg, Canada, also mourned the death of one of the bus passengers, Rabbi Uriel Malka, 32, who was working as a chaplain in the Israeli Prisons Service.

Malka, a father of five, worked as a Jewish Agency emissary for two years in Denver and then served as principal of the Ohr HaTorah Day School in Winnipeg. Malka had narrowly escaped death during combat in the Second Lebanon War.

(JTA)

Marcy Oster

It’s The Olive Trees, Stupid!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

In case you didn’t notice, olive trees in Judea and Samaria are under attack. The alleged culprits are Jews living there. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry called it “terrorism.”

Will this “crime against humanity” be on the agenda of the UN? Will NGOs demand this “Holocaust of the trees” be prevented? Will the EU lavish funds to make up for the poor harvest, a result of intense heat waves and lack of rain? Will the International Court of Injustice condemn this as a “violation of international law”?

By the way, where are these fervent “guardians of the trees” when Jewish fields are torched and Jewish vineyards ripped up by Arabs, assisted by “peace activists”?

At any rate, to whom, precisely, do these endangered trees belong? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Palestinians claim them “for generations,” though there are no deeds, or indications of ownership, and most are recent plantings.

Maps of the disputed areas during the British Mandate show that Arabs have encroached on state land, planting and building; uncontested, they claim legal possession.

In recent decades this encroachment has become widespread, and planting olive trees has become one of the most widely used methods by Arabs to assert legal claims and acquire land rights.

Why olive trees? Olives are in high demand and the trees are easily maintained; they require no irrigation and little care, except for occasional pruning, which helps new growth the following year.

And pruning can, when convenient, look like destruction – perfect for making a case against “settlers” and garnering media attention and compensation.

Arabs also plant olive trees in disputed areas near Jewish communities, often with help from Peace Now and NGOs, to check the growth of settlements and provide cover for terrorists who seek to infiltrate and murder. In the struggle over property rights olive trees serve as signs of ownership, as boundary markers, and are valuable forward positions for asserting strategic advantage.

True, both sides play this game, as Jewish communities expand as well. Only one side, however, gets condemned, and the poor olive trees are caught in the middle. But the questions persist: Who has a right to plant, who has a right to harvest, and to whom do trees (whose lineage and ancestry cannot be traced) belong?

And, of course, who owns the land?

Arabs and much of the international community claim Jews have no right to live in areas conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. But when the UN in 1947 proposed dividing Palestine (a two-state solution), the idea was rejected by the Arabs. Five Arab armies invaded Israel in 1948; an armistice in 1949 left Israel in control of one part of what had been called Palestine, Jordan in control of Judea and Samaria, and Egypt in control of the Gaza Strip.

No one proposed a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel, nor did Palestinians consider themselves a distinct people.

Egypt never claimed the Gaza Strip, which is now the first Islamist state of Hamas, and Jordan relinquished its claims to the West Bank in 1988. Both countries have signed peace treaties with Israel. Legally, therefore, sovereignty over these areas should revert to their original status – part of “the Jewish National Home,” the State of Israel.

One of the few places in the world whose status is disputed and undetermined, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is embroiled in a struggle over political and national rights. It is important, however, not to forget the forest – Israel’s survival – for the trees, olives and others.

Metaphors for conflicting claims and sources of contention, olive trees can also nourish mutuality. Robert Serry’s exaggeration is one more indication of what is wrong with the UN and its hostility toward Israel – and an example of what, by encouraging extremism and misunderstanding, prevents true peace.

Moshe Dann is a writer living in Jerusalem.

Moshe Dann

Title: A Green Fantasy: Ruthie Discovers The Secret To Noah’s Ecosystem

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Title: A Green Fantasy: Ruthie Discovers The Secret To Noah’s Ecosystem


Author: Edna Chayen


Publisher: Mazo Publishers, Jerusalem


 


 


   Noah’s Ark. Do we believe it really happened or was it a kind of Biblical legend, allegory or parable? The author, an anthropologist as well as a barrister and criminologist, has done an amazing amount of research into ecology, and come up with a fascinating theory and a gripping children’s story of how it really might have been.

 

   Ruthie, aged ten, has chosen Noah’s Ark for her school project during the summer vacation, and has asked her 12-year-old brother Dan to help her. They also enlist the help of their cousin Jack, a university student who is studying Ecology. The more research they do, the more it becomes feasible as a complete, closed ecological system.

 

   They began with the dimensions of the Ark as stated in the Bible 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, which would make it longer than a football field. There could have been plants and trees growing inside it that, by giving out oxygen and taking up carbon dioxide, could re-oxygenate the air. Trees could also recycle the water.

 

   Throughout the book there are drawings (by Tzipi Stern) that show, for example, a map where Noah could have built the ark, how it floated above the mountain tops, the interior of the Ark with its ramps and pools of water; the construction of the ceiling and roof, and a cross-section inside it. The attractive cover, painted by the author, depicts one of the cages.

 

   There were so many points to consider, Ruthie decided that there had to be flowers, with small, live creatures on them – flies, ants, lady-birds, bees and butterflies. In fact, all the creatures had to be catered for and their varied requirements for heat or cold, light and shade, food and drink, to enable their survival in the Ark. Many solutions to the problems came to Ruthie in her dreams, when her sub-conscious took over from her daytime thoughts.

 

   Her school project becomes something of an obsession, much to her parents’ concern, but in the end, everyone – including her teacher – is impressed by both her work and her vivid imagination.

 

   This is a gripping children’s book from which even adults can consider the feasibility and possibility that Noah’s Ark may have existed just as the author has described it.

Dvora Waysman

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (That is, if you’re a tree!)

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

                  From the very beginning of creation, the Holy One was

                  occupied with the planting of trees. As it is written:

                  “G-d planted a garden in Eden.” (Gen. 2:8)

 

                  Every year, on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, we celebrate a strange holiday – Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees.  The name is a short form of 15th Shevat – tet = 9 and vav = 6.  This year, Tu b’Shevat falls on 3rd February, one month before Purim.  It also has other names – Chag Hailanot – the Festival of the Trees; and Chag Haperot – the Festival of the Fruit. 
 
                  The month of Shevat marks the beginning of spring in Israel. In winter, there is usually heavy rain and some storms.  Vegetation is dormant. Except for the olive, the cypress, the carob and the pine, the trees are leafless, the fields newly ploughed and sown.  But with Shevat, nature rouses itself. Meadows are carpeted with blood-red anemones, cyclamens peep from rock crevices.  Trees begin to blossom. The almond (shaked) is the first, bedecking itself with rose-white flowers.
 
                  The Talmud and Midrash are emphatic about the value of trees.  “Man’s life depends on the tree”; “All the trees were created for the use and enjoyment of living beings”;  “It is forbidden to live in a city which has no gardens and greens.”  The Torah is compared to a tree: “For it is a tree of life….” Trees were given human characteristics:  the cedar symbolizing courage and strength; the olive – wisdom; the grapevine – joy and childbearing; the palm – beauty and stateliness.
 
                  Thus it is easy to understand the holiday of Tu b’Shevat, the day when trees are judged…. which trees will flourish and grow tall; which will wither and shrink; which to be struck by lightning and which to withstand all danger.  In the ancient Jewish calendar, the date was adopted for tree tithing.  Farmers were obliged to give a tenth of their produce to the government as fruit for the Temple.  Even today, we measure the age of the tree according to Tu b’Shevat and it is forbidden to eat its fruit until the tree’s fourth birthday.
 
                  The customs of Tu b’Shevat are few but delightful.  Holding a seder is not commanded in the Torah.  The idea began in Safed in the 1500’s as a celebration of the creation, and it is modeled after the Passover Seder. Fifteen kinds of fruit and nuts are eaten, and four cups of wine are drunk. Traditionally, the first cup is white wine, then white mixed with a bit of red, the third cup is red mixed with a bit of white and the fourth cup is pure red wine, symbolizing the four seasons.  The table is set with fruit, wine and a loaf of bread, and the blessing over fruit is recited at least four times. We read a selection of prayers, poems and blessings referring to trees and fruit and the earth’s fertility.
 

                  Tree planting ceremonies, especially by children, are traditional on Tu b’Shevat in Israel, where the soil is holy.  At the dawn of creation, G-d placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to till it and tend it.  We are therefore commanded to take care of the world and be its stewards.  Tu b’Shevat also reminds us of our responsibility to the environment – that we should cry out against the enormity of the destruction of rain forests and the degradation of G-d’s world.

Dvora Waysman

Fruit Of The Land

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
“This week is Tu B’Shevat,” announced Rabbi Dayan. “We celebrate the ‘New Year’ of trees with produce of Eretz Yisrael. However, the Israeli Rabbinate does not take full responsibility for Terumos and Ma’asros to export produce. So, unless the produce is marked as tithed, it is proper to take Terumos and Ma’asros yourself.”
“But I thought that only applies in Israel,” commented Mr. Greenberg.
Rabbi Dayan answered, “Fruit grown in Israel is obligated in tithes even when eaten in America.”
Mr. Greenberg checked his fruit store for Israeli produce, and found Jaffa oranges, Israeli pomegranates and many more fruits and vegetables. He bought a bag of each and wondered, “What do I do now?” he wondered.
 Mr. Greenberg invited his knowledgeable neighbor, Mr. Weiss, to advise him.
“Tithing involves four steps,” explained Mr. Weiss. “First, cut off somewhat more than one percent of the produce. Second, designate a coin to redeem the Ma’aser Sheni. Take a quarter, since that allows you to redeem a few times.”
             Mr. Greenberg cut off a small piece of each type of produce and got a quarter. “Now what?”
“Third,” continued Mr. Levy, “recite the Terumos and Ma’asros text whereby you declare the various tithes, in a language you understand. Fourth, double wrap the 1+ percent that you cut and dispose of it, and destroy or discard the coin after a few uses.”
Mr. Greenberg recited the text, disposed of the fruit, which had been cut off, put away the quarter safely for additional redemptions, and thanked Mr. Weiss.
            “My pleasure,” smiled Mr. Weiss. “But I’ll take an orange, half a pomegranate,” and named some more of the produce. “Please hand them over.”
“Huh?” Mr. Greenberg looked at him blankly.
“You know I’m a Levi,” explained Mr. Weiss. “One of the tithes you just declared was Ma’aser Rishon given to the Levi. So I’d like 10 percent of each type “
            “Can you really collect 10 percent from everyone?” asked Mr. Greenberg.
“Why not?” retorted Mr. Weiss. “You declared Ma’aser Rishon and I’m a Levi, so you owe it to me or some other Levi.”
“Let’s check with Rabbi Dayan,” insisted Mr. Greenberg.”
 Mr. Greenberg, together with Mr. Weiss, called Rabbi Dayan. “Your question,” said Rabbi Dayan, “touches on the basics of Terumos and Ma’asros.
“The mitzvah of Terumos and Ma’asros has two parts. The first is to designate and declare Terumos and Ma’asros. Even nowadays we must do this and only after declaring tithes is the remaining fruit kosher.”
“The second part is to give the tithes to the relevant parties, the Kohen and the Levi.  The 1+ percent is the Kohen’s, but it must be eaten in purity. This is not possible nowadays, so we dispose of it respectfully.”
            “What about my 10 percent?” demanded Mr. Weiss.
“The Levi’s portion can be eaten nowadays. However, this brings us to the most fundamental principle of monetary law,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “That is: ‘One who demands of his friend has the burden of the proof.’ A person can demand money only if he can prove that he is definitely entitled to it.
“There is an element of doubt here. Tithes may have been taken by the Rabbinate, in which case the ‘tithing’ was superfluous. Mr. Greenberg declared Terumos and Ma’asros out of doubt, to make sure that the fruit would be kosher. However, when you demand that he hand over to you the 10 percent Levi portion, that’s a different story! This is now a monetary issue.

             “Demanding that Mr. Greenberg give you an orange places the burden of proof on you that Terumos and Ma’asros were not taken and that his tithing was meaningful. Otherwise, Mr. Greenberg can say, ‘Prove that I owe you this orange. Maybe it isn’t really Ma’aser.’ Furthermore, you have no proof of your lineage as a Levi, other than your own statement. Since no Levi can prove that he is definitely entitled to that orange of Ma’aser Rishon, Mr. Greenberg can retain possession of it and eat it.”

 

    Rabbi Meir Orlian is a Halacha writer for Machon L’Choshen Mishpat, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn. For more information visit www.machonmishpat.com.

Rabbi Meir Orlian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/fruit-of-the-land/2010/01/27/

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