Monday, February 9, 2009

happy Tu B'Shvat!

Happy Happy Tu B'Shvat everyone!

Just because we're out of school, and haven't learned a thing about this awesome Yom Tov since, here are some interesting facts (that you may or may not remember) about Tu B'Shvat:

  • Some Jews pickle or candy the Etrog from Sukkos and then eat it on Tu B'Shvat, and then pray to be worthy to purchase a beautiful Etrog for the next Sukkos.
  • Until recent decades, it was most often called Khamisha Asar BeShvat (חמשה-עשר בשבט), the fifteenth, of Shvat.
  • The discussion of when the new year for trees occurs is debated in the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah) where it says: "And there are four new year dates: - The first of Nissan - new year for kings and festivals - The first of Elul - new year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say: the first of Tishrei. - The first of Tishrei- new year for calculation of the calendar, sabbatical years and jubilees, for planting and sowing - The first of Shvat - new year for trees, according to the school of Shamai; The school of Hillel say: the fifteenth of Shvat". The rabbis of the Talmud ruled in favor of Hillel on this issue. Thus the 15th of Shvat became the date for calculating when the agricultural cycle began or ended for the purpose of biblical tithes involving trees and fruit.
  • In shul, Tachanun is omitted on Tu Bishvat, but there are no other special tefillot or brachas said.
  • In the Middle Ages, Tu Bishvat was celebrated with a feast of fruits in keeping with the Mishnaic description of the holiday as a "New Year." In the 1600s, the kabbalist Rabbi Yitchak Luria of Tzfat instituted a Tu Bishvat seder in which the fruits and trees of Israel were given symbolic meaning. The main idea was that eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order while reciting the appropriate blessings would bring human beings, and the world, closer to spiritual perfection.
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