Tu b'Shevat and the Holiness of the Land of Israel

The upcoming holiday of Tu b'Shevat, on the 15th day of the month of Shevat--"Tu" being an acronym for the letters 'Tet' and 'Vav' adding up to 15 (falling this coming Thursday, January 20th, 2011)--celebrates the New Year for the Trees.  It was mentioned in VaYikra (Leviticus 19: 23-25) relating to calculating the age of trees for tithing.  It had been considered a minor holiday and not really marked by any special ceremony or much celebration for many, many years.

In our time--and I believe it is prophetic and totally related to the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel--this chag celebrating the importance and yes, holiness of the trees and of the Land itself is now experiencing a renaissance, and is being celebrated by more and more Jews each year.

For hundreds of years in the diaspora Jews were not permitted to be landowners, and so many became moneylenders, and the art of agriculture and farming became, shall we say, dormant.    In the nineteenth century Jews began re-establishing agricultural settlements in the Land of Israel (then called Palestine), returning to their Promised Land and fulfilling the two-millennial old Zionist dream of rebuilding and resettling the Land.  As a result, Tu b'Shevat has been transformed.

In the diaspora (where I currently live, temporarily...) it is hard to envision blossoming trees and budding fruit, as it is still the dead of winter.  But in Israel, it is towards the end of the rainy season, and the almond trees begin blossoming.  One feels a revival of life, and spring is in the air.  Our family had begun celebrating Tu b'Shevat years ago with a Tu b'Shevat "seder," similar in idea to the Passover seder, in that it has a format, with readings and songs, celebrating the Seven Species for which Israel is known in the Torah.

Kabbalistically, Tu b'Shevat rectifies the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  We do this Tikkun--repair or rectification--just by eating the fruit which G-d created for our pleasure.  For, contrary to the asceticism of some other religions, Judaism values life, and physical--yes, physical--pleasure, of which eating is one!

I leave you with a video from Ohr Chadash by Rabbi Trugman on the holiness of all the land of Israel. This year,  I don't know if we will be able to make a seder for Tu b'Shevat, because we are in our temporary little apartment without our things, and feeling displaced. 

But G-d willing, if not this year, then next year.  In Jerusalem, with our children and grandchildren.


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