Throughout history when a great event happened people would reset their calendar. When a new king became ruler the year would start again with one. Similarly, that is why we are in the year 2008 Anno Domini, Latin for: in the year of our Lord, referring to the birth of Jesus. In the Jewish calendar, I mentioned in my previous post that there are four heads of the year. One of them is: “for the kings.”
What this means is that when a king came into power when they reached this head of the year, the first of the month of Nissan, it was considered that he had reigned for a year. When the next Nissan came around, his second year and so on.
Similarly, on the fifteenth of the month of Shevat, or tu b’shvat, it is the beginning of the year for trees. When a tree is planted, according the Jewish law, it considered one year old when the first tu b’shvat comes around. This is important for all of the agricultural laws dealing with trees and fruit. For instance, when does one tithe? Or, another example, one is not allowed to eat the fruit of a tree for the first three years. Depending on how many tu b’shvats the tree lived through you can know the age of the tree.
There is another importance to tu b’shvat… It is said that just as the fate of a man’s year is decided by God on the first of the month of Tishrei, Rosh HaShana, so too, the fate of a tree’s year will be decided by God on the fifteenth of the month of Shevat.
Traditionally this day is seen, not only as a day of judgment for the trees, but for man as well.
In our culture we do not realize quite how dependant we are on produce. Two thousand years ago, even two hundred years ago, if there was a drought, people died! Today, if there is a drought, thank God, we can get food shipped over from another country. A little inconvenient, I know, but no big deal. On some levels it is wonderful that we have this ability, however, it means that we are not as aware of how dependent we are on the earth and the well-being of our plants, and today, our trees.
We already shared with you one way to celebrate. I would like to suggest another way. Just as people like to take stock at the New Year, to think about how they want to change for the future. Take this day, as the tree’s day of judgment, and think about how you want to change your lifestyle to be a little more tree-friendly.
Green Prophet related :: Eco Rabbi on Solar Panels and Charity