This past Sunday we learned about Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for Trees, which is celebrated tonight (Tue) and tomorrow (Wed). Tu B’Shvat means the 15th of Shvat – Tu is comprised of the 9th Hebrew letter (tet) and the sixth Hebrew letter (vav, which is pronounced as the vowel sound “oo” when there is a dot in the middle). 9+6=15. But why not 10+5? That would be consistent with other Hebrew numbering… It is because that would require that we put together a “yud” and a “hay,” which together spell a name for God. To ensure we use God’s name only for purposes of prayer and learning, we write 15 as “tet+vav – ט״ו
The concept of a birthday for trees is related to tithing, which is related to both environmental concerns and taking care of those among us who do not have enough food to sustain themselves. Did you know that the Torah teaches that farmers are to set aside a certain portion of their crops, including those from trees, for the poor, in such a way that those in need could take what they need without having to beg for food, or, ideally, without even being seen by the landowner? There are beautiful lessons to be learned from this, including not embarrassing someone; not treating someone in need differently or badly; helping others.
Given the myriad mitzvoth that can be gleaned from Tu B’Shvat (pun intended J), I had the 3rd graders make Mitzvah Trees. Hopefully you saw the tree your daughter/son created! Each tree had to have the following components: 7 leaves with different mitzvot written on each; the name of the holiday somewhere on the project; something s/he learned about the holiday.
This coming Sunday we will be working on prayers, including the prayer we will be singing at the Shabbat service (and dinner) in March. I hope you can all attend!
Wishing you a shavua tov – a good week –