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Tu- b'Shevat – New Year of Nature

By Zanna Linskaia

While in North America it is still the middle of winter, in Israel there

are signs of spring. It is time of the year for Tu-b'Shevat – New Year of

trees, which we celebrate this year on January 16. The meaning of

Tu-b'Shevat, 15 th day of month Shevat, comes from the Hebrew letters

tet – 9 and vav – 6, according to Gematria, Jewish numerology, that

were taken very seriously by mystics.

Historically, Tu-b'Shevat was an agricultural holiday. Believe you or

not, in ancient Israel it was tax placed on fruits on this day. Again,

Jews are responsible even for this!

When Jews were exiled from Israel and lived in Diaspora, Tu-b'Shevat

became a connection between countries and the land of Israel. It has

begun a mitzvah to eat fruits on this day, especially figs, grapes and

carob – the fruits of Eretz Israel.

In different African and Asian countries Jews even created a special

Tu-b'Shevat Seder, taking for model Passover Seder and reading the

parts of Torah and Talmud with blessing over the fruits.

In modern time it is custom to plant the trees in Israel. The famous

Canadian philanthropist rabbi Morris Wosk, the founder of Burquest

Shaarei Mizrah, many years ago bought a piece of land in Israel for

Burquest alley of trees. There you can plant a tree in memory or

special event of beloved ones via Jewish National Fund. JNF was

founded in 1901 by Theodor Herzl to buy land in Ottoman Palestine

for Jewish settlement. Rothschild’s family, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth

Taylor and others donated millions of dollars to plant forests in Eretz

Israel. From that time, JNF has planted over 250 million trees, more

than 1,000 parks and hundreds of nature projects. Currently, areas of

focus are the Carmel Forest and the Negev Desert.

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