One of the Los Alamos Jewish Center children, Linnea Stange, climbs a tree. Courtesy photo
BY RABBI JACK SHLACHTER
Los Alamos Jewish Center
Most of us recently celebrated a new year, the Gregorian new year, which falls on January 1. But many other new years are familiar.
The Jewish calendar provides adherents with numerous new years. Perhaps most familiar is Rosh HaShanah, the annual celebration of the creation of the world, and in particular, of human beings. That holiday occurs in September/October (the Jewish calendar moves around relative to the Gregorian calendar) and is often observed by attendance at synagogue services.
A much less familiar but thoroughly enjoyable minor holiday is called Tu Bi-Shevat, literally the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, and comes in January/February. This year, Tu Bi-Shevat begins in the evening on February 5 and ends the following evening. Tu Bi-Shevat is the new year of trees, and while it had a technical significance in ancient times associated with tithing fruit, it has regained importance in the modern era by connecting Jews with the agricultural cycle in Israel and the State of Israel in general. According to tradition, the rainy season in Israel comes to an end on Tu Bi-Shevat, and the sap in trees begins to flow, bringing new life to trees. The soil also is rejuvenated (re-Jewvenated?) on Tu Bi-Shevat.
For thousands of years, Jews have been deeply concerned for the world of nature; an ancient Rabbinic text teaches that “when one chops down a fruit-bearing tree, its cry goes forth from one end of the world to the other (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 34).
Perhaps the most festive custom to gain in popularity following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 has been the Tu Bi-Shevat seder – a festive repast around a table where participants enjoy produce associated with Israel, particularly those found in the Biblical verse (Deuteronomy 8:8) “A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives and honey.”
This year, the Los Alamos Jewish Center will be celebrating Tu Bi-Shevat with a fruit-filled, family-friendly ceremony followed by a bagel-and-lox pot-luck lunch on Saturday, February 4th, at 11:30 am, following Shabbat morning services. Happy New Year of the Trees!
The Los Alamos Jewish Center is located at 2400 Canyon Road, just down the street from PEEC Nature Center. Guests are always welcome! Please let us know that you’ll be joining us by emailing: email@example.com