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    A Tu BiSh’vat alphabet

    APPLE IN PARADISE – despite the popular view, the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve was probably an etrog; fruit-eating on Tu BiSh’vat was regarded by Kabbalah as atonement for Adam and Eve’s sin.

    BAGHDAD – Baghdadi Jews marked Tu BiSh’vat by a ceremony in the house of mourning, symbolic of resurrection (as trees become green again, so will the dead return to life).

    ETHICS OF TREES – in the Midrash, Jews are like a vine which, though plucked up from one place, can flourish in another; like a vine which does not lose its leaves, Israel is never abandoned by God.

    FRUIT – Tu BiSh’vat is a fruit festival. Rabbi Jacob Levi Saphir ate 50 kinds of fruit. Chayyim Vital ate 30 kinds. Most people keep to 15. Some people eat dried, not fresh fruits.

    HAGGADAH – we not only celebrate, we philosophise and talk about it.

    KEREN KAYYEMET – the KKL (JNF) built up Israel’s forests, giving everyone the opportunity of taking part in the mitzvah; JNF preferred timber trees to fruit trees.

    MAN – the Torah likens man to a tree (Deut. 20:19), which has firm roots, is nourished by streams of water (Psalm 1:3), grows up towards the heavens and symbolises God’s blessings.

    MESSIAH – springtime is symbolic of the redemptive shofar. Planting trees shows concern for those who will come after us.

    ROSH HASHANAH LA’ILANOT – New Year for Trees: originally it lacked ceremonies but eventually became a way of remembering the Holy Land; in Europe the festivities lit up the gloom of the cold weather.

    SAFED (TZ’FAT) – the place of origin of many Tu BiSh’vat ceremonies, especially amongst Sephardim.

    SEDER FOR TU BISH’VAT – many people create their own Tu BiSh’vat Seder with scriptural verses that acclaim and describe Israel’s fruit trees; the ceremony culminates in song (Psalm 116:12).

    TREES – Trees provide strength and stability (Prov. 3:18); the Bible commands concern for “the trees of the Lord”; tree-planting ceremonies became customary on Tu BiSh’vat in both Israel and the Diaspora.

    TU BISH’VAT – 15 Sh’vat, separating the Israeli winter and spring, is the New Year for Trees and began in the Mishnah; the festive ceremonies evolved later.

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