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2013-01-25

Tu Bi – Shvat - The New Year of Trees

Today, the sunset marks the beginning of the Tu Bi-Shvat holiday, i.e. the New Year of Trees, the start of the agricultural cycle and the flowering of almond trees in Israel.

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Tu Bi-Shvat marks the end of winter and rainfalls and the beginning of tree sap circulation. In the ancient times, this holiday played an important role in agricultural communities because it was the only day when the age of trees and the amount of mandatory tithes and other levies were imposed by law. In contemporary Israel, at Tu Bi-Shvat children and school youth plant trees and the Seder, a special dinner is served to eat fruit grown in Israel. According to Jewish tradition, fifteen kinds of fruit are eaten, such as olives, dates, grapes, figs, apples, pears, nuts and bananas. During the ceremonial dinner, the phrase ‘next year in Jerusalem’ is usually said.

In the Talmudic period, rabbis decided – based on what they saw in nature – that the 15th day of the month of Shevat would brecognized as the beginning of the fruit tree growth cycle. In consequence, every tree in Israel became a year older on that day. The establishment of the date of Tu Bi Shevat and, consequently, the method of calculating the age of trees was important from the historic perspective. Indeed, in ancient times, Jewish farmers paid taxes in fruit and their level depended on the age of the trees from which it had been picked. In the 16th century, a group of mystics in the Holy Land introduced the ritual of consuming fruit – produce of the land of Israel – during a festive dinner. This ceremony was accompanied by reading relevant parts of the Pentateuch, Talmud and other scriptures. Today the ritual is cultivated also outside Israel. For Jews in the Diaspora, also in Poland, participation in the Seder (festive meal) confirms their union with the Land of Forefathers, the “land of milk and honey”. In Poland Tu Bi Shevat is celebrated more often in community than at home.

In the early 20th century, Jewish settlers in Palestine introduced the custom of planting trees on the occasion of Tu Bi Shevat. In today’s Israel, tree planting on Tu Bi Shevat is a great national event involving school children and their teachers. Jews in Poland and other countries chip in by collecting money for the purchase of seedlings.

The Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw has the pleasure of inviting you to the Tu-Bi Shvat seder at the Nożyk Synagouge at 5 pm, January 25th. Seven sorts of Israeli fruit will be served. Hasidim would say that if you celebrate Tu Bi-Shvat, you will have enough food for the rest of the ear.

On January 26th, at the end of Shabbat, Rabbi Pash and Jakub Rok will talk about ecology in Judaism. The meeting, which will take place at 7:30 pm in the Bejtejn room, will touch on such issues as the ways of using produce according to Jewish ethics, Halakha and recycling and many other topics.

The Tu-Bi Shvat seder at the Ec Chaim synagogue will begin at 6 pm on January 26th. During the dinner, Piotr Kadlcik will talk about his hobby, Bonsai trees.

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