Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1:1
(1) The four new years are: On the first of Nisan, the new year for the kings and for the festivals; On the first of Elul, the new year for the tithing of animals; Rabbi Eleazar and Rabbi Shimon say, on the first of Tishrei. On the first of Tishrei, the new year for years, for the Sabbatical years and for the Jubilee years and for the planting and for the vegetables. On the first of Shevat, the new year for the trees, these are the words of Shammai; the House of Hillel says, on the fifteenth thereof.
Celebrate Tu BeShevat in Israel by Planting a Tree!
I am happy to share an opportunity with readers of the Bulletin that was originally published in the newsletter of Blossoming Rose. Many of you have visited the oasis of Biblical Tamar in the wilderness, and like me have fallen in love with the serenity that one can only find there. Read below to find out how you can plant a tree in Israel at Biblical Tamar Park. Your donations towards this project are greatly appreciated. Many of us in UIWU have contributed towards special projects at Biblical Tamar as we all love this special place.
~ the Editor
Every year many organizations in Israel raise funds to plant trees in honor of this special day. It is a great reminder of the prophetic scripture that the “desert will blossom as a rose.” If you have been reading our monthly Newsletter, you know that Blossoming Rose has planted thousands of trees in the desert in southern Israel since 1984. We and our volunteers plant the trees and care for them by irrigating and trimming them. Many of our trees are fruit bearing which our volunteers enjoy harvesting and eating at the Park.
For the past several months, in our monthly Newsletters, we have described our Five-Year Plan for the continued development of Biblical Tamar Park which includes three projects. One of those projects is to plant the “Garden of the Ages” which Blossoming Rose committed to do, as requested by the Central Arava Regional Council, several years ago. We began this project in February, 2020, and will continue to develop it this fall.
Hundreds of names of those who have donated funds to plant and irrigate trees have been engraved on small plaques and placed on a wall in the dining room. Part of the development of the Garden of the Ages is to create a wall within the Gardens which will list everyone who has planted a tree at the Park. Until then the names will remain on the wall in the dining hall.
For a donation of $100, a tree will be planted in your name or in the name of a loved one. If you would like to sponsor an engraved bench in the Garden the cost is $750.
We will have a well designed garden with the help of Dr. Elaine Soloway, Director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture, at the Arava Research Center in Ketura. She has provided trees and advice for many years. We will continue to work with her as we continue this new project.
Biblical Tamar Tu BeShevat Donations
Dr. Tabor’s Quest of the Historical Jesus Featured
Dr. James Tabor’s quest for the historical Jesus was recently featured in a special, 10th Anniversary Issue of Popular Archaeology Magazine. When Tabor was notified of the honor, he said, “I am honored, humbled, and flattered.” You can read his blog post here.
The article in Popular Archaeology introduced its 10-year Anniversary issue with these words:
“Popular Archaeology Magazine is pleased to announce the publication of the 10-year Anniversary Issue, featuring the top 10 stories of the magazine’s first 10 years. These stories exemplify the excitement and adventure of archaeological exploration around the world, showing why the remarkable discoveries being made by archaeologists and other scholars have captured the imagination and interest of people worldwide.”
Kol haKavod President Tabor!
New Teaching Series – PROPHET
This series, to quote the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “is about some of the most disturbing people who have ever lived: the men whose inspiration brought the Bible into being – the men whose image is our refuge in distress, and whose voice and vision sustain our faith. The significance of Israel’s prophets lies not only in what they said, but also in what they were.”
These weekly lessons are live-streamed every Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. CT on Facebook and YouTube.
Video and Audio files of these classes, as well as John “Baruch” Perry’s teaching notes of the classes, are archived for on-demand viewing/listening on the UIWU website here.
Don’t miss a single class in this informative new teaching series!
Shevat Part Two – Tu B’Shevat – New Year for Trees
From the Torah and the Traditions
by Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin
We noted in part one of this article that the word shevat stems from the Hebrew word shevet and can be translated as a rod, a stick, a branch, a staff, also a tribe or a symbol of authority as in a scepter. If we paint a picture in our minds of this shevet, extending out and down through the generations…beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the 12 tribes, we see this shevet, this stick, this rod branching out like a family tree…a tree having many branches but all connected to one source… one root…each receiving its nourishment from that ancient promise HaShem made to Abraham in Gen. 12:3, that through his seed all the families of the earth will be blessed! And how will that happen? Dor v’dor…from generation to generation…passing down and sharing Torah as commanded in the Shema…Baruch HaShem!
The Torah Compares Man to a Tree – How is man like a tree?
“A man is like a tree of the field.” (Deut. 20:19) Taken in context we find that a tree is to be respected; it is forbidden to harm or destroy it…such as it is with human life.
“For as the days of a tree shall the days of my people be…”and continuing in verse 23 the prophet states”…they are the seed of the blessed of HaShem and their offspring with them.” This reference to seed and subsequent blessings calls the ancient promise of HaShem to Abraham to mind and with it the concept of DNA that binds all of HaShem’s children together which gives hope to our world! (Isaiah 65:22)
“For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. (Job 14:7)
Jeremiah the Prophet says that the man who trusts in HaShem “shall be like a tree planted by the waters and spreads its roots by the river and shall not see when the heat comes for its leaves shall be green, and shall not be anxious in the year of drought, nor shall it cease from yielding fruit “(Jer. 17:8)
Speaking of a righteous man, the psalmist says that, “He will be like a tree planted by streams of water that brings forth its fruit in season….” (Psa.1:2-3).
In comparison to a wicked man, the psalmist also says, “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of HaShem. I trust in the love of HaShem forever and ever. I will give Thee thanks forever…” (Psa. 52:10)
Trees will take part in rejoicing at the final redemption of all of HaShem’s creation!
“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isa. 55:12) See also I Chron. 16:33.
Trees and humans share basic needs…they need to be nourished in order to thrive and survive.
(1) Soil – trees need to be firmly planted in soil which provides a foundation and room for roots to spread and grow. Mankind also needs to be firmly planted so as to have a strong foundation to grow its root system.
(2) Water -the Torah is likened to water, living water (mayim chayim). It flows down from HaShem in every generation. The lack of water results in dehydration and death for both trees and mankind.
(3) Air – Oxygen, breath. In creating Adam, the Torah says that He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (nishmat chayim); related to root word for soul, (neshama). Like man, trees also mush have fresh air.
(4) Light – as trees thrive in sunlight which provides both life and warmth, so does man thrive in the Light of HaShem and His Torah!
The connections between mankind and nature are so overwhelmingly obvious that it is no surprise that HaShem through the prophet Isaiah says that He will “plant the heavens” (Isa. 51:16) when referring to His bringing about the promised new heavens and the new earth.
Rabbi Hertz, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain comments on this verse, “Heaven is here compared to a seed that will grow into a tree, and yield fruit and shelter to the children of men. And Heaven may be planted! Whenever we teach a child by word or example a noble thought, deed or way of life, we plant Heaven. In the same way, Heaven can be planted in the soul of a people, or peoples. Israel was chosen and Providentially preserved, in order that through Israel God might plant Heaven-righteousness and mercy—in the soul of humanity.”
The Message of Tu B’Shevat – The New Year of the Trees
Tu B’Shevat (Hebrew: ט״ו בשבט) is not one of the seven “mo’edim” or festivals found in Torah, but has much to do with the times and the seasons and how they are designed to teach us about connecting to our Creator and practical Torah living in ways that we may not have yet realized.
Tu B’Shevat is seen as a minor Jewish holiday that occurs on the 15th day of the 11th month, known as Shevat on the traditional Jewish Calendar. It is also called “The New Year of the Trees” or (Hebrew: ראש השנה לאילנות, Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot). Tu B’Shvat is one of four “New Years” mentioned in the Mishnah. Read more from Judaism 101 or https://www.chabad.org
It has been referred to as Jewish Arbor Day. On a deeper level we will be able to discover more Hidden Sparks beneath the Surface for this holiday has to do with renewal and new life as it marks the separation from the harvest of the previous year to the promise of spring and the new produce to come…all from the Loving Hand of our gracious Creator.
“To everything there is a season and a purpose to everything under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3). It should be noted that it takes four months, from Sukkot to the 15th of Shevat, for rains to saturate the ground. In the Land of Israel, this time of year is referred to as the rainy season. In Jewish tradition, a special blessing is inserted in the Amidah for the winter rains to come. On Tu B’Shevat, the new sap begins to rise up into the trees. It is a “wake up” call to the trees and it is a “wake up” call to us…another “New Beginning.”
Many choose to plant a tree of their own during this time of year or to plant a tree in Israel by donating $18.00, called a “Chai,” which symbolizes the number 18 meaning Life!
On Tu B’Shevat, it is traditional to partake of the seven species of Eretz Yisrael…two grains- Barley and Wheat…plus five fruits – Olives, Dates, Grapes, Pomegranates and Figs and also to taste fruits that we have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy this year. It is an opportune time to celebrate how conscious eating and enjoying the fruits of trees can be a bridge to connect us more deeply to HaShem, our Creator, YHVH…and how it can bring blessings to the earth.
Tu B’Shevat always falls before the parsha Yitro where we read of the giving of the Torah. It represents the renewal of the innate desire within those of us who love Hashem to always keep our eyes, ears and our hearts open to discover those Hidden Sparks beneath the Surface…sparks which connect the physical to the spiritual.
“The Torah is a Tree of Life for all who grasp it.” (Proverbs 3:18) There is beautiful symbolism represented here as we see a physical picture immerge…for when one is called to the bema to read the from the Torah in the synagogue, he or she grabs hold of the wooden rollers of the Torah scroll which are appropriately referred to as “aitz chayim, ”The Tree of Life!
As we either physically or spiritually grab hold of that “Aitz Chayim,” the “Tree of Life,” may we more fully acknowledge that the message of the New Year of the Trees is a wakeup call is not only for the trees, but also for us!
Tu B’Shevat – Learning through the Senses
As a teacher of young children, I personally have found that the best way to learn is to learn from our senses…what we see, hear, touch, taste and do has a profound effect upon what we will remember and be able to incorporate into our daily lives. And this concept is certainly not limited to the teaching of children.
According to the kabbalists, each month has a particular sense and a particular letter of the alphabet associated with it. This month has to do with the sense of “taste.” It is interesting to note that there are 32 teeth in the mouth and 32 has the same numerical value as word lev or heart in Hebrew which connect food to the heart and the size of your heart to the size of your stomach. There is a saying that the size of your heart (which is about the size of your fist) should be the size of the meal that we eat!
Although most of us would not necessarily agree with that statement, we would agree that we do need to be mindful of the way we eat and what the purpose of eating actually is. It is for enjoyment, yes, but also for nourishment, and should be met with thanksgiving. Remember Esau? He swallowed his lentils whole.
The kabbalists also teach that within the food are Divine Sparks…when we eat, we digest the food and it moves up to the brain and nourishes it and the entire body.
Challenge for this month then is to elevate eating, use the energy of this month to elevate the foods we eat…to carry that energy into our daily lives…to connect the physical with the spiritual.
The Power of a Blessing
On Tu B’Shevat, we are given the opportunity to partake of the 7 species of Eretz Yisrael…2 grains, Barley and Wheat…plus 5 fruits, Olives, Dates, Grapes, Pomegranates and Figs and also to taste fruits that we have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy this year. It is an opportune time to celebrate how eating and enjoying the fruits of trees can be a bridge to G‑d, and how it can bring back the blessing to the earth.
We take a fruit, and before enjoying it, we recite a blessing: “Blessed are you, HaShem our G‑d, king of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.” In other words, we are acknowledging that these fruits are a gift from HaShem for our enjoyment and our nourishment. When we say the blessing for ha aitz (the fruit of the tree) and eat of it, we are using all of our senses; we are taking in the physical, and transforming a material moment to a spiritual moment. We are connecting to HaShem by an action and intent (kavanah) as we are consciously drawing in His Divine Presence, His Sheckinah into ourselves, into our lives.
You may ask exactly what do we do to observe Tu b’Shevat? There are many meaningful customs and traditions for this holiday that vary from family to family. The important thing to remember however you may choose to observe this day is that in Judaism, there is a blessing for everything, and on Tu b’Shevat, blessings abound!!!
A Personal Story and a Mnemonic
As a family, we have not been able to participate in a beautiful Kabbalistic Tu B’Shevat Seder is several years, but each year we do try to partake of the seven species mentioned in the Torah with reference to the “praise of the Land of Israel!”
Several years ago after relating the story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to the Creator by eating the fruit of the one tree of which they were told not to partake, I posed the question…why would they do such a thing? Why do we do the things that we do? It is because we have free will?
Yes, we do the things that we do because we want to…because we can, because we have a choice; and inevitably after we realize what we have done, we ask ourselves why and then do t’shuvah, ask for forgiveness. I wonder if Adam and Eve might have gone through the same process and asked themselves a similar question that might have gone something like this…
ButWhy? O Dear G-d Please Forgive! Think of this question in reference to the 7 species. It is a mnemonic device for remembering them and is one that made my 12 year old grandson laugh and comment, “Granny, you will always be a preschool teacher!” Picture a plate with foods going from right to left as in Hebrew…Barley, Wheat, Olives, Dates, Grapes, Pomegranates, Figs!
The sages teach that when we give a blessing to Hashem before and after eating of His bounty, that we can turn the physical act of eating into a spiritual act of receiving and heartfelt gratitude which can nourish both body and soul and in so doing give us a physical reminder that we are making a good choice and yes, that we are actually contributing to the rectification of Adam and Eve’s flagrant disobedience. We then are in a process of becoming a part of bringing tikkun olam (repair of our world)!
As we gaze upon the beauty of the foods represented on each of our plates, we first say the Shehecheyanu blessing over each new fruit or grain we have not yet partaken of this year. Then as we separately bless the Creator for each fruit (or grain), take each bite into our mouth and savor it, we have an opportunity to taste of the miracle which brought it into being and give thanks not just with our lips, but with our hearts and souls…this is the blessing of receiving…and this is what the New Year of the Tree(s) is all about…it is New Year for us too…yet another loving wakeup call from The Creator to us His children…more Hidden Sparks beneath the Surface!”
Remembering Rabbi Chayim Luzzatto wise words…
As I think I am! It’s all about consciousness…G-d consciousness!
Announcing The Moses Scroll
I am pleased to announce to readers of the Bulletin my soon to be published debut book. We are in the final stages of publication and anticipate that the book will be available by March 8, 2021.
Reopening the Most Controversial Case in the History of Biblical Scholarship
The Moses Scroll tells the dramatic story of a 19th-century controversy surrounding the discovery and debate over a manuscript discovered by Bedouin in a cave near the Dead Sea. The manuscript consisted of sixteen leather strips described as a shortened form of the Book of Deuteronomy but with some exciting and surprisingly different readings.
Jerusalem antiquities dealer and agent of the British Museum, Moses W. Shapira, came in possession of the manuscript. He presented the leather strips to leading European scholars for examination. They produced and published transcriptions of the scroll’s words. The debate about the genuineness of the manuscript was highly publicized and fiercely debated in the leading newspapers of the day worldwide. Ultimately, the scholars declared the manuscript a clever forgery. Among their reasons was a doubt that any leather manuscript could survive from antiquity in a cave near the Dead Sea. The entire drama, from the time that the manuscript was presented to Europe’s top scholars until Moses Shapira was found dead in a hotel room in the Netherlands, played out on a world stage in a single year.
Eight decades after the reported discovery of Shapira’s Moses scroll, the world learned that Bedouin had discovered leather manuscripts in caves near the Dead Sea. These turned out to be more than 2,000 years old. We must now ask – were the 19th-century scholars wrong about Shapira’s scroll? The Moses Scroll reopens this most controversial case in the history of biblical scholarship, telling the dramatic story from the 19th-century accounts and weighing the evidence against what we know today. The book also contains an accurate transcription of the manuscript as seen through the eyes of some of the top 19th-century Hebraists and a new English translation of its words.
The Moses Scroll is engaging, compelling, and accessible to everyone. Is the Moses Scroll a clever forgery or the most significant biblical manuscript discovery of all time?