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Tu B’Shevat (15th Shevat)

February 1, 2015

What is Tu B’Shevat?

The festival of Tu B’Shevat falls on the 15th day of the month of Shevat, which this year is from sunset on Tuesday 3rd February to (after) sunset on Wednesday 4th February. The name Tu B’Shevat is literally 15 Shevat – the day on which the festival falls. It is also known as the New Year for Trees, a reflection of the fact that it marks the start of the agricultural cycle – an important time in the calendar in ancient Israel which was a largely agrarian society.

Why Celebrate the 15th of the Month?

There were various customs relating to trues and fruits, many are linked to the age of the tree or the number of years the field has been cultivated. So it was important to know the age of tress, crops, vines, etc. Tu B’Shevat is one of four ‘New Year’ celebrations in the Jewish calendar – and the one that determines the age of trees etc. Determining when it is old enough to eat its fruit, when it should it should be rested for a seventh (Shabbat) year, etc. In modern Israel, the festival is linked to ecology and nature; this is why many people or organisations celebrate the festival by planting trees.

What about the Tu B’Shevat Seder?

During the Middle Ages, Jews in exile developed the idea of the Tu B’Shevat feast using fruits found in Israel. This developed into a seder meal with symbolic meaning given to specific fruits, nuts and grains. The seder has ten fruits (instead of ten plagues) including seven species found in the Torah – wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranates, olives and dates – plus various berries, nuts, and honey. As with the Passover seder, the Tu B’Shevat seder has an order for the eating of the fruits, each with its own blessing, and it includes the drinking of four glasses of wine or grape juice.

Does WLS celebrate Tu B’Shevat?

Yes we do – but since Tu B’Shevat is as a minor festival we do not see any reason to interrupt the secular calendar or hold a service on a non service day of the week. Instead we have a Tu B’Shevat seder on a Friday evening as an Erev Shabbat service. In recent years the Tu B’Shevat seder has been held in collaboration with other nearby progressive communities – this year Sukkot Shalom are hosting the Tu B’Shevat seder.

Everyone from WLS is invited to attend – please bring grape juice as a contribution to the seder – the seder service starts at 8:00pm on Friday 6th February at Sukkat Shalom in Hermon Hill.

 

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