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It’s Hard to be a Jew at Christmas, But Even Harder on Tu BiSh’vat
It is a truth universally acknowledged that it can be difficult to be Jewish at Christmas time. It has seeped into North American cultural consciousness so thoroughly that South Park even wrote a song about it, complete with trademark expletives.
Literally, “four species.” The Torah specifies four species to bring together on Sukkot. The four species are: lulav (branches of palm trees), etrog (citron), hadasim (myrtle branches), and aravot (willows) (Leviticus 23:40).
"Counting of the omer;" An omer is a biblical measurement of grain. The counting of the omer is 49-day period that begins on the second night of Passover during which each day is counted with a blessing. On the 50th day, the Festival of Shavuot is observed.
Tu BiShvat: Customs and Rituals
The Jewish mystics of the 17th century, the Kabbalists, created a special ritual—modeled after the Passover seder—to celebrate God's presence in nature. Today in modern Israel, Tu BiShvat has become a national holiday, a tree planting festivaTu BiShvat is not mentioned in the Torah. Scholars believe the holiday was originally an agricultural festival, corresponding to the beginning of spring in Israel. But a critical historical event helped Tu BiShvat evolve from a simple celebration of spring to a commemoration of our connection to the land of Israel. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the exile that followed, many of the exiled Jews felt a need to bind themselves symbolically to their former homeland. Tu BiShvat served in part to fill that spiritual need. Jews used this time each year to eat a variety of fruits and nuts that could be obtained from Israel. The practice, a sort of physical association with the land, continued for many centuries.l for both Israelis and Jews throughout the world
Tu BiShvat: History
Although the celebration of Tu BiShvat has a long and varied history, the theme most commonly ascribed to the holiday today is the environment.
Counting of the Omer: Blessings for Each Day
The period between Passover and Shavuot is called the “Counting of the Omer” (Sefirat Ha'omer).