Saturday, January 30, 2010
(starts evening prior)
IN THE BEGINNING
"And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants
yielding seed according to their own kinds and trees bearing
fruit in which is their seed, each according to his kind, upon
the earth." And it was so… And God saw that it was good." (Genesis
IN BIBLICAL TIMES
Our fathers were farmers who appreciated nature as their lives
depended on it. They celebrated the changes of the
seasons, with bikkurim -first fruits to the Temple,
heave-offerings and maasrot tithes.
of the Seder is to express our appreciation to God for Nature
and for the annual gift of the fruits of his trees to his people
AN EMOTIONAL EVENT
In Israel on Tu BiShevat, 15th of the month Shveat,
the trees begin to bloom. This sight is more than a
pleasant part of nature; it is an uplifting event within our
emotions. It raises our awareness of the miracles of God; it
awakens us not to take life for granted; it gives hope that the
cold, dark, barren winter is over and fresh, new days are before
"There are four New Years …
The New Year for Kings and Festivals is on Nisan 1;
The New Year for Tithe of Animals is on Elul 1;
The New Year for Calendar, Sabbatical, and Jubilee Years is on
The New Year for Trees is on the fifteenth of Shevat."
(Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Rosh Hashana).
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DATE OF TU BISHEVAT
"Until this point, the trees are sustained from the rainwater of
the past year; from this date they are sustained from the
rainwater of the following year." (Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate
"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land
of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in
valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and
fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey,
a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which
you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of
whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be
satisfied and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good
land he has given you." (Deuteronomy 8:7)
"When Moses wanted to praise the Land of Israel, he made special
mention of its fruits… "Honey" refers to dates, because they are
sweet." (Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir, RaShBaM)
TITHES – OR FRUIT TAXATION!
"You shall not delay to offer of the fullness of your harvest
and of the flow of your presses." (Exodus 22:28) "Our
masters taught that a tree whose fruit has ripened in the past
year is tithed for the past year. After Tu biShvat, it is
tithed for the coming year."
In the Temple the tithing was as follows. Teruma Gedola
The Great Contribution – was about 2% of the harvest, to be
presented to the priest in the Temple. Maaser Rishon –First
Tithe – of the harvest was given to the Levite. Terumat
Ma'aser – The Tithe Contribution – the Levite gave a tenth
of his receipts to the priests. Maaser Sheni – Second
Tithe – a tenth of what remained of the harvest after all the
deductions mentioned above, had to be taken to Jerusalem (aliya
laregel) where the farmer and his family had to eat it or
sell it. This was done on the first, second, fourth and
fifth years of the seven-year cycle. Ma'aser Ani -
The tithe for the Poor – was the portion of Ma'aser Sheni
that was set aside for the poor during the third and sixth year.
ADVANCED SOCIAL LAWS OF FRUITS
THE FIRST FRUIT OFFERINGS
- Bikurim – were the choicest first fruits that were
brought to the Temple to be presented to the priests.
– Shichacha – "when you reap your harvest and you forget
a bundle in your field, you shall not turn back to take it.
It shall be for the proselyte, the orphan and the widow so that
the Lord your God will bless you in all your work" (Deuteronomy
24:19). CORNERS AND GLEANINGS: Pe'ah and Leket
– "when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not
complete your reaping to the corner of your field and the
gleanings of your harvest… For the poor and the proselyte you
shall leave them. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:9).
THE FIRST FOUR YEARS of a fruit bearing tree –
Orlah – "when you come to the Land and you plant any fruit
tree, treat its fruits as forbidden. For three years they
shall be forbidden to you, they shall not be eaten. In the
fourth year, all its fruits shall be sanctified to praise God.
In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit – so that it will
increase its crop for you. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus,
SHMITA – THE SABBATICAL YEAR
"Six years shall you sow your land and gather its produce and in
the seventh you shall leave it untended and unharvested.
The destitute of your people shall eat and the wildlife of the
field shall eat what is left, so shall you do to your vineyard
and your olive grove." (Exodus, 23:10)
As well as eating fruit, drinking wine and singing, we celebrate
the Tu BiShevat Seder by reading portions of the Bible that
mention the Land of Israel and her fruits; thanking God and all
His endeavors for us; reviewing specific mizvot -
commandments - relevant to the Land of Israel; eating from the
Seven Species mentioned in the Torah (Wheat, Barley, Grapes,
Figs, Pomegranates, Olives, and Dates); and welcoming the New
Year for Trees with the blessing "Shehechiyanu" – Renewal
– over fruits we have not yet eaten.
"Baruch Atah Yahweh
Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam,
shehecheyanu, v’qiyamanu, v’higiyanu lazman hazeh."
Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who has
kept us alive, given us sustenance, and brought us to this
THE FORMAL BLESSING OVER FRUIT
"Baruch Atah Yahweh Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam, Borei Pri
Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,
who creates the fruit of the Tree."
WHEAT – OR BREAD
"Rabbi Judah said, "An infant cannot say "father" and
"mother" until it has tasted wheat (bread)." We
deduce that from the moment a child eats bread, he is
considered to understand. Thus wheat symbolizes
knowledge itself. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate
"Rabbi Judah son of Simon commented that Boaz measured
six measures of barley for Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth
3:15). As his reward, Boaz was privileged to have
six righteous men as descendants, namely, David, Hezekia,
Josiah, Hanania, Mishael & Azaria, Daniel and the King
Messiah, David" (Midrash Rabba, Ruth 7:2).
"Why is Israel compared to a grape vine? Just as
when its owner seeks to improve it, he uproots it and
plants it elsewhere and then indeed it flourishes.
Similarly, when God intended to make Israel's fame known
throughout the world, what did He do? He uprooted
them from Egypt, brought them into the wilderness, where
they began to improve. They received the Torah and
their reputation spread throughout the world." (Midrash
Rabba, Exodus 44:1).
"Why was the Torah likened to a fig tree? Because,
while the fruit of most other tree – the olive, the vine
and the date – is gathered all at once, that of the fig
tee is gathered little by little. It is the same
with the Torah. One gathers a little learning
today and much tomorrow, for it cannot be learned in one
year or in two years." (Midrash Rabba, Numbers
"Rabbi Meir found a pomegranate; he ate the fruit and
threw away the peel. This is to teach us to
differentiate between the main thing and things of
secondary importance." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate
"Why is Israel compared to an olive? To tell you that
just as the olive produces its oil only after being
pounded, so Israel returns to the right way only after
suffering." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Menachot,
"Why is Israel compare to the date palm? There is no
waste in any part of the date-palm. The dates are
eaten, the lulav branches are used for Hallel
prayer, the dried branches are used for thatch, the
fibres for rope, the leaves for sieves and the planed
boards for roofing. So it is with Israel that none
is worthless in Israel. (Midrash Rabba, Genesis 41:1).
THE TREES ARE HAPPY!
What do the trees of the field say? "Then shall
all the trees of the wood sing for joy! Before the Lord
... for He is come to judge the earth." (Psalms 96:12).
from Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund
The Fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shevat, this year (2010)
celebrated on Shabbat, January 30, 2010 is the date
designated in the Torah as "New Year for the Trees".
This is the time when the earliest blossoming trees
in Israel start blooming, believe it or not, all of
you out there who are still wading through slush in
your winter gear. On this day, we partake of the
Seven Species of fruit which represent the bounty of
the Land of Israel, such as dates, pomegranates,