GOOD MORNING! It's time for the annual Superbowl joke! A man attending the Superbowl sat next to an empty seat. Incredulously, he asked the woman sitting on the other side of the seat how it's possible to have an empty seat when they're being scalped at a thousand bucks a shot? The woman answered that the seat belonged to her late husband. The man extended his sympathies and said, "Gee, I would have thought a relative or a friend would have jumped at the opportunity to use the seat." The woman replied, "I would have thought so too, but they all insisted on going to the funeral."
Q & A: WHAT IS TU B'SHEVAT AND HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
Monday, February 1 is Tu B'Shevat. Unbeknownst to many Jews, there are four "Rosh HaShanahs," New Years, in a calendar year:
- The first of the Hebrew month of Nisan is the New Year with regards to counting the years in the reign of the Kings of Israel.
- The first of Elul is the New Year with regards to tithing of the animals. (One out of ten animals born within that calendar year from Elul until the beginning of Elul the following year were given to the Temple.)
- The first of Tishrei is the New Year for the judgment of mankind -- for life and death, rich or poor, sickness or health -- as well as for counting the Sabbatical Year (Shmita) and the Jubilee year (Yovel) for the land of Israel; the counting of the first three years of a fruit tree when the fruit is not allowed to be eaten (Orlah), and calculating the tithes for grain and vegetables.
- The 15th of Shevat is the New Year for trees with reference to calculating tithes due to be given from fruit of trees in the time of the Temple.
Tu B'Shevat is a festive day because the Torah praises the Land of Israel with reference to the fruits of the trees and the produce of the soil: "a land of wheat and barley and vines (grapes) and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and (date) honey. ...And you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you." (Deut. 8:8-10) The Jewish people rejoice in the fruits, in the Land and in the Almighty Who has given us life.
It is celebrated by eating the special types of fruits for which Israel is renown: dates, pomegranates, figs, grapes -- and buxer (carob or St. John's bread -- I don't think he was Jewish, though). It's also celebrated by planting trees in Israel and if you can't get to Israel, you can purchase trees to be planted in Israel from the Jewish National Fund, Tel. 305-538-6464.
Portion of the Week
The Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh regrets letting them go, pursues them leading his chosen chariot corps and a huge army. The Jews rebel and cry out to Moses, "Weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?" The Yam Soof, the Sea of Reeds (usually mistranslated as the Red Sea) splits, the Jews cross over, the Egyptians pursue and the sea returns and drowns the Egyptians. Moses and the men and Miriam and the women -- each separately -- sing praises of thanks to the Almighty.
They arrive at Marah and rebel over the bitter water. Moses throws a certain tree in the water to make it drinkable. The Almighty then tells the Israelites, "If you obey God your Lord and do what is upright in His eyes, carefully heeding all His commandments and keeping all His decrees, then I will not strike you with any of the sicknesses that I brought on Egypt. I am God who heals you." (This is why the Hagaddah strives to prove there were more than 10 plagues in Egypt -- the greater the number of afflictions, the greater number from which we are protected.)
Later the Israelites rebel again over lack of food; God provides quail and manna (a double portion was given on the sixth day to last through Shabbat; we have two challahs for each meal on Shabbat to commemorate the double portion of manna). Moses instructs them about the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. God tells Moses to strike a stone which then gave forth water. Finally, the portion concludes with the war against Amalek and the command to "obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "And it was when Pharaoh sent the people, the Almighty did not lead them by the land of the Philistines, for the Almighty said perhaps the people will regret (leaving Egypt) and will return to Egypt." How is it possible that after all the Jewish people suffered in Egypt and all of the miracles that the Almighty performed for them that they could even consider going back?
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman comments on this that a person is a mixture of a body and a soul. Even when a person is on a very high spiritual level, he can fall. One needs constant vigilance. At one moment a person can be very elevated. However, if he panics he can behave in a very immature way. Although the Israelites had a great awareness, it could be lost in a very short time.
This same concept of the changeability of a person gives one great hope, concludes Rav Yehuda Leib. If you can fall quickly, you can pick yourself up very quickly, too. Never despair when you feel that you are on a low level. If you are sincerely resolved to climb spiritually, you have the ability to instantaneously put yourself back on the path of life.
Don't waste time with self-pity if you feel that you are not on the level you want to be. Realize that you can obtain great heights at any moment if you have the determination to do so!