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It's time for the annual Super Bowl joke! During the game, a man turns to the lady on his left and says, "You and I are sitting next to the only empty seat in the stadium and these seats are being scalped at $1000!" The lady replies, "Yes, it was my late husband's seat." The man offers condolences and says, "But I would have thought a friend or a relative would have wanted to make use of it." "Yes," says the lady, "I would have thought so, too ... but they all insisted on going to the funeral." In life one must have his priorities in order ... so, today we'll deal with the Jewish New Year and Tu B'shvat!
When is the New Year? Would you be surprised to know that there are 4 New Years in the Jewish calendar -- and Monday, February 13th is Tu B'Shevat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat) and the New Year for trees!
The first mishna - teaching - in the Talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashanah informs us of the 4 New Years:
- The first of the Hebrew month Nissan 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 was given to the Temple.)
- The first of Tishrei is the New Year for the judgment of mankind -- for life or 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 in Jerusalem.
Tu B'Shevat is a festive day. 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 G-d 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 renowned: olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates -- and also buxer (carob). 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 (jnf.org or call 800-542-TREE). Just as others have planted for us, we plant for the future and those who will come after us.
In our home we put out a whole fruit display -- especially those mentioned above for which the land of Israel is praised. It is a time of appreciation for what the Almighty has given us and which we might take for granted. Let your attitude be gratitude! The Kabbalists in Safad created a Tu B'Shevat Seder (similar to the Passover Seder) with explanations and meditations where the inner dimensions of fruits are expounded, along with blessings, songs and deep discussion. You can find it at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat
Man is compared to a tree. In Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers found in the back of most Siddurim, Jewish prayer books), it is written:
Just as a tree needs soil, water, air and sunlight, so does a person need to be spiritually rooted and connected with a source of nourishment. Water to a tree, Torah wisdom for us -- as Moses proclaims: "May my teaching drop like the rain" (Deut. 32:2). Air for the tree, spirituality for us -- as the Torah states that "God breathed life into the form of Man (Genesis 2:7) ." Sunlight for a tree, the warmth of friendship and community for a person. Rabbi Shraga Simmons wrote a beautiful article, "Man is a Tree," expanding on this theme. Also, worth reading: Rabbi Avi Geller's "Lively Overview." Both are available at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat .
For more on "Spirituality" Go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah 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 with the men and Miriam with 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 G-d 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 G-d 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 over lack of food; G-d 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 then instructs them concerning the laws of Shabbat. At Rephidim, they rebel again over water. G-d 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 on that day the Almighty saved the Israelites from the hand of Egypt" (Exodus 14:30). Which day does the Torah refer to when it writes "on that day" and what lesson can we learn from the reference to that day?
The Ohr Hachayim comments that the Torah states that "on that day" that the Israelites were saved was the self-same day that the Egyptians who pursued them perished in the sea. However, the Israelites were liberated from Egypt and left Egypt before this. Why only now that the Egyptians drowned in the sea did they feel saved?
The answer: the Israelites only felt saved once they felt secure that the Egyptians would no longer pursue them. We see from this that even though in actuality a person is free, he is not really considered free unless he personally feels free. A person who worries and feels insecure is a person who is imprisoned even though he is not behind bars and no one will harm him.
To be truly free you must feel free and this is up to you. You have a great deal of control over your thoughts if you work on it. If you worry about the future, even though future events might work out exactly as you would have wished, you still suffer in the present. This suffering will be the same as if you actually experienced some misfortune. However, all the suffering will be unnecessary. The greater your mastery over your thoughts, the greater freedom you will experience in life!
NEW BOOK! SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT by Rabbi Yaakov Solomon. If you are what you eat, then how about some quality soul food for your mind? This compilation of witty, charming, vivid portrayals of the vicissitudes of life will give you something worthwhile to think about and to reflect on your own life. It is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 21:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:37 Hong Kong 5:46 Honolulu 5:55
J'Burg 6:46 London 4:12 Los Angeles 4:53
Melbourne 7:19 Mexico City 6:08 Miami 5:38
Moscow 4:25 New York 4:43 Singapore 7:01
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
We cannot direct the wind,
but we can adjust the sails .
With thanks to