Where Does T’’U Come From?


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz –

We made it! We’ve successfully blasted through Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and are pushing toward the next set of holidays: Fiesta Bowl, Cactus Bowl, the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday and T”u Bishvat.

You know about the first six festivals; maybe you celebrated a couple. But what about the funny-looking one, T”u Bishvat (pronounced: too bish-vaht)?

In December, hundreds of scientists, international relations specialists and leaders from scores of countries met in Paris for the summit on climate change. Their concern was the rising ocean temperature, and fear that over-harvested forests would cancel trees’ ability to convert carbon-dioxide into oxygen.

T”u Bishvat is Chag ha-ilanot, the New Year of the trees. (You’ll recall Rosh Hashanah in the Fall, is the New Year for people.) In celebration of this special day, 16th century Kabbalists began the tradition of singing and dancing, while tasting fruits, nuts and wines.

Where does T”u come from? In Hebrew, every letter has a number equivalent. Joining the letters “tet = 9” and “vav” = 6, spells out T”u, or 15. The festival falls on the 15th day of the month Shevat.

It’s a joyous time to reflect on the significance of nature. To celebrate ecology and renewable resources: Trees – for food and shade, for controlling water flow, for housing animals, etc. To glimpse a hint of Spring, in the middle of winter.

This year T”u Bishvat falls on January 25. It’s a great day to enjoy all that our trees and vines provide to us! As we charge into 2016, and see ever more football games, some of us will stop to celebrate our trees, ecology, renewable resources…and to drink a toast “L’chaim”, to life!


Photo credit: susivinh via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

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