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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘tu b’shvat’

A Tu B’Shvat Tribute to Israel

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

My good friend Yonina Pritzker is the spiritual leader of Congregation Ohr Yisrael in Newton, Massachusetts. In addition to her congregational and community work, she has worked at The David Project on curricula related to Israel, and at CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) as a Research Analyst. She is also the most pro-Israel leader around! In honor of Tu B’Shvat she has written a reminder of what Israel is all about:

tu bishvat poster

When the ancient Temple stood in Jerusalem, and even after its destruction, the income of Israelite farmers was taxed by one tenth. The date which marked the end of one fruit crop and the beginning of the next fruit crop was the 15th day of the month of Shevat. This day, known as Tu B’Shvat, celebrated this year on Thursday, January 16, was considered to be the New Year for trees, just as Rosh HaShanah is our New Year. It was thought that the trees also stood in judgment that day, and their fruitfulness in the upcoming year was decided.

In celebration of Tu B’Shvat, Ashkenazi Jews in Europe would sing Psalms and eat different kinds of fruit from the trees of Israel. During the sixteenth century, the Kabbalists and mystics of Tzfat in Israel developed a Tu B’Shvat Seder, patterned after our Passover Seder. Amidst the drinking of four cups of wine, a multitude of fruit would be eaten

We are taught in the Torah, For the L-rd your G-d is bringing you to a good land: … A land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates; a land of oil-yielding olives and honey. Deuteronomy 8:8

These are the seven species which are associated with the Land of Israel and which we traditionally eat on Tu B’Shvat.

Fifteen times, the Torah refers to the Land of Israel as a “land flowing with milk and honey.” The commentary Rashi explains that “milk” refers to goat’s milk, while “honey” refers to “any sweet juice of a fruit.”

In Midarkai Hailanos we are taught that the Ramban, or Nachmanides, understands “‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ as the highest of praise:  It is a good land, its air is good and pleasant for people, and every good thing can be found in it…Its fruit are so plump and sweet that the land runs with their honey.” While Rabbenu Bachyei “insists that ‘all the praises of the Land allude to the Torah itself…’ Even the air of Eretz Yisrael, say our Chachamim, has the capacity to make one wiser. In Rabbenu Bachyei’s opinion this is the ‘milk and honey’ of Eretz Yisrael.”

Our love of and connection to the Land of Israel is as old as our people itself. Israel and Jerusalem hold the deepest religious significance for Jews.  Although there are those who keep trying to deny this connection, as well as, politicize Jerusalem, this land and city, which are the objects of our eternal love, will never be a political issue.  On the contrary, Israel, the land which bears our name, and Jerusalem, our eternal capital, are the very soul of the Jewish People.

Israel is the religious and spiritual center of the Jewish world. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel from ancient times until today. The centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people cannot be overstated. Over the millennia, many conquerors tried to absorb Israel within their empires; but in all of these attempts, the land of Israel remained the country of our people, and Jerusalem has served as the capital of only one nation – that of our Jewish nation.

My Tu B’Shvat Resolution

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

In the Mahane Yehuda market in Jersalem, everything is ready for Tu B’shvat, the new year for trees. The Torah permits and prohibits different uses of fruit trees based on their age, and so the 15th of the month of Shvat marks the dividing line between tree years. This means that a tree planted today, on the 14th of Shvat, will count as being 2-years-old tomorrow.

How time flies.

I just emailed my wife, Nancy, and my daughter, Yarden, a list of what they should bring from the Netanya shuk for tonight’s festivities:

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey. (Deuteronomy 8:7-8)

So, please get us:

Wheat cookies Rye bread Grapes Figs (fresh if possible) Pomegranates in any edible form–juice good too Olives of many colors Dates (the honey is not bee vomit but dates)

 

Photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

Photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

Now, take a look at the Tu B’Shvat seder in the court of the Kartshnif Chassidim in Bnei Brak: apples and bananas and pineapples and plums, like they never saw those verses from Deuteronomy. Good for them! They’re not being literal about it. If it grows in Eretz Israel, it’s good enough for Tu B’Shvat.

Although the banana is not technically a tree but a bush.

Come to think of it, it’s better to make a bracha over an orange that grew in Israel than dried figs from Turkey.

My Tu B’Shvat resolution (since it is a new year) is to have fun on Jewish holidays and not worry so much whether I’m doing the right thing. Once I get to 120 and must face judgment, I’m sure it won’t be so critical if they throw in a banana.

Mini-Forest to be Planted in Tel Aviv on Tu B’Shvat

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Three-meter-long trees will be placed at Rabin Square to create a mini-forest in the center of Tel Aviv on Tu B’Shvat, which falls on Thursday this year.

Pupils from all over the city will come to celebrate the holiday by writing their wishes for this year and hanging them on the trees.

Traditionalists can still plant trees in events throughout the country sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The age of high-tech now enables people to “plant” a tee via a “click and plant” (and pay) program on the JNF’s website.

An ecological element has been added to the holiday in recent years with an emphasis on conservation.

Dried fruits are popular in Israel on Tu B’Shvat, but if you really want to be Zionist, you might have to stay away from the dried figs unless you can find the few that actually are picked and processed in Israel and not Turkey.

Those who want a trial run for the Passover Seder, or simply want to follow the Kabbalistic custom from the 16th or 17th century, can sit down with four cups of wine or grape juice for the Tu B’Shvat Seder, compiled by the Kabbalists from Tsfat (Safed).

A Tree for Every Rocket: Soldiers Plant 1,532 Trees

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

In honor of Tu B’shvat, IDF soldiers planted 1,532 trees in the vicinity of Nachal Oz, on the Gazan border in southern Israel. The 1,532 trees signify the 1,532 rockets fired by Hamas terrorists at Israel from Gaza during Operation “Pillar of Defense.”

The event, titled “A Plant for Each Rocket,” was held in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Some 800 soldiers participated. Commander of the Education Corps Brigadier General Eli Shermeister emceed, hosting Southern Command CO Major-General Tal Ruso and JNF World Chairman Effi Stezler.

The trees will provide some shelter from gun fire for Israeli hikers and motorists on the roads outside Nachal Oz. The settlement has been the target of several shooting incidents over the years, with some starting fires in the area.

Another eleven communities will receive similar protection in the near future, with the trees expected to shade about 7.5 miles of vulnerable roads, mostly near the security fence.

The species of tree selected for this task is the eucalyptus, which, according to experts, will provide the necessary cover: it’s a quick grower and gets to be very tall, supplying the needed protection in a short period of time.

These fragrant trees will also aid the beehive industry in the region.

Effi Stezler stated during the event: “We are planting these trees to provide protection for the civilian passengers on the roads, and to offer defense for the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, these trees will provide oxygen and honey. We believe that these trees, which have previously provided shelter from the Syrians on the Golan Heights years ago, will now protect the residents of southern Israel.”

What’s the Point of Celebrating Tu B’Shvat in Exile?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

How could I not write a blog about Tu B’Shvat?

In the Land of Israel, we’re already happily celebrating Tu B’Shvat, the holiday of the trees. School children sing songs praising the Land of Israel and thanking Hashem for its fruits. Bus loads of students and families go on field trips throughout the country, and saplings are planted with great joy and spirit. And a festive meal of thanksgiving, highlighted by a cornucopia of fruits of the Land, will grace our tables on Shabbat.

This is the holiday of Eretz Yisrael! I suppose next to my love for Hashem, I love the Land of Israel more than anything else in the world. Without Eretz Yisrael, the Jewish Nation is shattered, destroyed. Outside of Eretz Yisrael, we are like fish out of water. We can’t survive as a Nation. We have no national soul. We’re just individuals in other people’s lands, like the dry bones the Prophet Ezekiel describes. Dry bones in the graveyard of foreign lands.

Without Eretz Yisrael, the Torah is a shrunken, truncated, mini-version of the complete Torah of Eretz Yisrael. Two-thirds of the Mishna deals with laws that can only be performed in Israel. Without Eretz Yisrael, God Himself is reduced to a second-string diety, seemingly not strong enough to keep His Chosen People in the Land He gave them, for there is no greater desecration of the Name of God than when the Jewish People are scattered in exile amongst the goyim (Ezekiel, 36:20). Without Eretz Yisrael, there is no prophecy, no Beit HaMikdash, and the Divine Presence doesn’t appear in the world.

I’m not the only one who loves Eretz Yisrael. God also loves the Land of Israel with a towering love, watching over it like a favorite child, from the beginning of the year to its end, just like it says in the Torah.

I love Eretz Yisrael so much, I never want to leave it. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. If I was forced to leave the Land of Israel, it would be a terrible punishment. The worst punishment there could be. The Rambam describes the love of God like a man who is passionately in love with a woman and always wants to be with her – so too a Jew should actively yearn, every single minute, to always be in Israel. It’s part of being a Jew. It’s the integral part of keeping the Torah. As Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi explains in “The Kuzari,” it’s the main part of serving G-d completely, being in the place where the Torah can be most completely observed. Like with all the commandments of the Land which can only be performed in Israel. Living a life of Torah in Eretz Yisrael is what Judaism is all about. If a Jew doesn’t feel a powerful, throbbing yearning to be in Eretz Yisrael, then something is wrong with his understanding of Torah.

On Tu B’Shvat we eat the fruits of Eretz Yisrael as described in the Torah, “For the L-rd your G-d brings you into a good Land, a Land of water courses, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a Land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a Land of olive oil, and date honey; a land where you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack anything in it…” (Devarim, 8:8).

During the festive meal celebrating the holiday, our Sages instruct us to first eat the fruits which appear in the Torah verse closest to the word “Land.” From here, Rabbi Kook writes that the person who is closest to the Land of Israel, and who exerts himself the most in its settlement, is the closest to perfection, and he will be blessed first in the World To Come. (“Ayn Iyah,” Berachot 41; and “Olat Rayah,” Vol. 1, pg. 375). Thus if you have two Jews of equal religious observance, but one lives in the Diaspora and the other in Eretz Yisrael, the Jew who lives in Israel is first in blessing and closer to Jewish perfection.

What an incredible blessing and honor and privilege to live here! In Israel, before you eat fruit that’s grown here, you have to separate the tithes, trumot and ma’aserot, and make the proper blessing (or be sure that the fruit seller has done it for you). You can’t do that with the fruits that grow in the Diaspora. The mitzvah doesn’t apply in the Diaspora. There aren’t any tithes because the fruits there aren’t holy. The land there isn’t holy. The air there isn’t holy. It’s a place of spiritual impurity. In fact, it’s so impure there that Jews forget what real holiness is, and that they are supposed to be living in the Holy Land, and not in the impure lands of the gentiles.

For all of you who are still in exile in foreign lands of the gentiles, at least go out and buy yourself some fruit and wine from the Land of Israel. Make a party! Bless Hashem for the good Land He has given us, and for its fruits and overflowing bounty. As it says in the Gemara, the surest sign of the end of the exile is when the trees in the Land of Israel give forth their fruits in abundance (Sanhedrin 98A, see Rashi there). That time is now! There are fruit trees all over the country. Supermarkets are filled with mountains of fruits. Oranges, apples, peaches, pears, grapefruit, kiwis, bananas, lemons, pomegranates, figs, dates, olives, pomela, avocadoes, and on and on and on. That’s the surest sign of Geula! You don’t have to wait for Mashiach – the Redemption is happening now!

This Tu B’Shvat, may you all be blessed from the Land of Israel and merit to be a part of it as soon as you can.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/whats-the-point-of-celebrating-tu-bshvat-in-exile/2013/01/24/

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