Ritual Life

Washington, Lincoln and Tu B’Shevat!

 

February brings two holidays that, taken together, describe what America is

about. February 11 corresponds to the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat,

Tu B’ Shevat. On that day in ancient Israel, the people paid a tax for the agri-

cultural products that grew during the year. It is similar to our April 15thtax day.


On February 20, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays are rec-

ognized when we honor and remember all of America’s past presidents, each

of whom contributed to the legacy of our democratic republic. In this way, an

entire nation is reminded how these individuals struggled for us to enjoy

electing a President every four years and to live in freedom and have our rights

protected by the values and laws that they forged.


Today, our approach to the holiday of Tu B’Shevat is no different. Living out-

side of the land of Israel for 2000 years, we remember the products of our land

by celebrating with a special seder. On Tu B’Shevat, we eat products grown in

the land of Israel, such as dates, olives, grapes, etc.


The Tu B’Shevat Seder includes drinking four cups of wine. We begin with a

cup of red wine and mix each successive glass with more white wine and less

red until the last cup is a full glass of only white wine. Each one of these cups

represents a season of the year going from the darkness of winter to the

brightness of the summer.


Tu B’Shevat also reminds us of our bonds with the land of Israel. It brings back

the national component in our Jewish identity. How can we not be in awe at the

return of the Jewish people to the land? We have to ask how did we do it. How

is it possible that a people scattered around the world for so long came back to

the land and again became a nation among the nations? One answer can be

found in the celebration of Tu B’Shevat. Because the people never forgot the

land and celebrated its products even when staying far away from it.

In that sense, Tu B’Shevat and Presidents Day have the same impact. The

continuity and renewal of any nation lies in its capacity to remember its origin,

history, and the values it should represent and carry to the next generations.

Today, this is crucial for we Jews living in the diaspora. Jewish education

needs to be strengthened and Jewish traditional life should be lived in our

homes. So, the question can be, why not enjoy Tu B’ Shevat around the

seder table with your children, reading about the agricultural advances that

the State of Israel achieved and is sharing with the world. Even if we live on

the soil of another land, bring a little bit of Israel and Jewish identify into the

house, especially on Tu B’Shevat.


With Blessings,

Rabbi Alberto (Baruch) Zeilicovich

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