Come, celebrate the New Year of the Trees with a seder | Worship
Each year we celebrate New Year’s Day to commemorate the advancement of the calendar year.
Logically, that means one New Year’s Day celebration per year.
Then why does the Hebrew calendar have four New Year’s celebrations?
New Year #1 is on 1 Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar even though the calendar year changed five months earlier on New Year #3.
This new year is used for ordering the Jewish holidays and in ancient times was used to count the years of the reigns of kings of Israel.
New Year #2 is on the first of Elul, the sixth month of the calendar year.
New Year #2 was sort of like April 15 in the United States – tax day. Years ago, 1 Elul determined the start date for the animal tithe (tax) to the priestly class in ancient Israel. Its occurrence goes largely unnoticed these days.
New Year #3 is the one most probably familiar to you.
It is Rosh Hashanah – “Head of the Year” – which occurs on 1 Tishrei, officially the seventh month of the year. It marks the day when the calendar year advances.
More importantly, Rosh Hashanah starts the observance of the Jewish High Holy Days, the 10 Days of Awe.
Then there’s New Year #4, which not only isn’t on the first month of the year but isn’t even on the first day of the month.
Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, occurs on the 15th day of the month of Shevat. It’s name literally means “15th of Shevat”.
This year, Tu B’Shevat starts at sunset this Friday, Feb. 10.
Originally, Tu B’Shevat’s purpose was to calculate the age of trees so certain commandments in the Torah could be observed.
For instance, Leviticus 19:23-25 states the fruit from trees may not be eaten until the tree is five years old. Since generally you wouldn’t know precisely when a tree was planted, the rule was a tree was considered to have aged one year as of Tu B’Shevat. Four years later, you could eat the fruit from that tree.
In modern times, Tu B’Shevat became like Arbor Day, a day to plant trees, especially in Israel.
More recently it has evolved into an Earth Day when environmental health is promoted.
One way of celebrating Tu B’Shevat is with a seder – a ceremonial meal following a specified order – during which symbolic fruits and four cups of wine are consumed, all after the appropriate blessings are recited.
Jewish mystics, Kabbalists, believed those who participated in a Tu B’Shevat seder could bring themselves closer to spiritual and environmental harmony.
During Tu B’Shevat, Jews recall the sacred obligation to care for God’s world, and the responsibility to share the fruits of God’s earth with all.
If these are your values, consider attending Temple Beth Or’s Tu B’Shevat seder at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 10, in the synagogue at 3215 Lombard Ave. in Everett. The public is invited to attend.
Glen Pickus is a member of Temple Beth Or, the Jewish synagogue serving Snohomish County. The synagogue is at 3215 Lombard Ave. For more information, visit www.templebethor.org.