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19:23-25, the Israelites are told, “When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubi- lation before God; and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit—that its yield to you may be increased.” In the fifth year—and all subse- quent years—the farmer would be able to harvest the crop for his own use.


Ritual Riches: Tu b’Shevat T


he “roots” of Tu b’Shevat can be found in the third book of the Torah. In Leviticus


In current times, Tu b’Shevat is considered to be a Jewish Arbor Day or “Earth Day” that teaches about Judaism’s attitudes towards responsible stewardship of God’s creation. Some observe this holiday by planting trees and promoting environmental activism. It is also traditional to eat fruit associatedwith the land of Israel. Another customis to eat a new fruit or to eat from the “seven species” The “seven species” mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8 are wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (honey).


In order to determine how the “birthday” of a tree could be marked, the early Rabbis established the 15th day of the Hebrew month Shevat as a general "birthday" for all trees, regardless of when they were actually planted. By this time, the majority of the annual rainfall has usually fallen in Israel, providing a healthy, water-logged soil in which to plant new trees. The holiday, Tu b’Shevat, derives its name from its date. “Tu" is the pronunciation of the Hebrew letters (tet+vav) that have a numerical value of 15; and the holiday occurs in (b’) the Hebrew month of Shevat. This year Tu b’Shevat falls on February 8th on our calendar.


The new fruits of the season fall into four categories. The first, hard on the outside and soft on the inside, symbolizes the protection that the earth gives us and reminds us to nourish the strength and healing power of our own bodies. These include walnuts, coconuts, or almonds. The second fruit is soft with a pit in the center (such as olives, dates, peaches, apricots, etc.) and symbol- izes the life-sustaining power that emanates from the earth. It reminds us of the spiritual and emotional strength that is within each of us. The third fruit is soft throughout and is completely edible (figs, grapes, and raisins) and symbolizes God's omnipresence and


our own inseparable ties with the earth. The fourth fruit has a tough skin on the outside but sweet fruit within (mangos, bananas, avocados, or sabra) and symbolizes the mys- tery of the world and the Torah. Another tradition, developed by the Kabbalists, is the Tu b’Shevat Seder. The seder begins with the recitation of the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for bringing us to this joyous time of celebrating rebirth and change. Modeled on the Passover Seder, the Tu b’Shevat Seder includes eating fruit and drinking four cups of wine. These cups of wine contain varying percentages of red and white wine, possibly representing the shift- ing of the four seasons. The seder may also include readings on trees and fruit from a range of Jewish literature.


However you celebrate Tu b’Shevat, it is a time to reflect on our connection to the land of Israel, as well as to the land and nature throughout the world. Happy Birthday Trees!


Ritual Riches is a monthly column written by members of the Worship Committee. We hope you will find these articles interesting and informative.


From Our Co-Presidents W


e have just returned from the URJ Biennial in Washington D.C, and to


say that we were inspired by this gathering of over 6000 committed Reform Jews is not nearly enough.We learned, prayed, enjoyed contemporary and classic Israeli and Jewish music, participated in Shabbat dinner for 4500 people, heard first-hand from President Obama, were energized about the URJ's new Campaign for Youth Engagement and the optimistic forecast about the Reform


Movement—and this does not begin to paint a full picture of the depth of the expe- rience. That is why we have requested the input of the Kol Ami congregants, clergy and staff who attended with us so that they can share their impressions of the Biennial, in the February Connection. Printing dead- lines and other such realities preclude pre- senting these testimonials now, butwe know that the heartfelt reflectionswill beworth the wait!


We hope you all experienced the blessings of fami- ly and friends duringHanukkah and wish you a happy, healthy, peaceful 2012 filled with the blend of gratitude, hopeful- ness and joy that permeated the Biennial. Ronnie and Mark


From Our Director of Membership and Development I


hope you have received your invitation to be our


guests at the New Member Shabbat Service and Dinner which is going to be on Friday, January 13th at 6:15 pm.


We look forward to welcoming you to Kol T h e C o n n e c t i o n


Ami during services with a special blessing. Services will be followed by Shabbat dinner. After dinner, adults will have the opportunity to study with Rabbis Milgrom and Weiner while our children make sandwiches and snacks for the hungry and cards for those who are ill and at home or in the hospital.


Come and get to know our clergy, lay lead- 4


Janet J a n u a r y , 2 0 1 2


ers, and other new members who have joined Kol Ami this year.


Please RSVP by January 9th to JanetHershey@nykolami.org or call me at 949-4717 ext. 115


Photo by Mariela Melamed


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