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Chodesh Shevat - the Month of Shevat

Winter: Chodesh Yod Aleph

Chodesh Shevat -

A Month to Return to the Torah

Introduction

The month of Shevat (חדש שבט) is the eleventh month of the Jewish calendar (counting from the month of Nisan).  The name "Shevat" (שְׁבָט) was adopted by the Jewish people sometime during the Babylonian exile, though it is explicitly mentioned in the Scriptures:

    On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month (בְּעַשְׁתֵּי־עָשָׂר חדֶשׁ), which is the month of Shevat (חדֶשׁ שְׁבָט), in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah... (Zech. 1:7)
     

The month of Shevat is considered important since the Scriptures state that Moses began his summary of the Torah (i.e., Mishneh Torah, or the sermon recorded in Book of Deuteronomy) on the first day of this month:
 

    "These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness ... in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month [i.e., Shevat] (בְּעַשְׁתֵּי־עָשָׂר חדֶשׁ)" (Deut. 1:1,3)


Because of this, the sages have long associated the 1st of Shevat with the holiday of Shavuot (i.e., the sixth of Sivan), since on both these dates God appealed to Israel to receive the message of the Torah. Moreover, since Jewish tradition says that Moses preached the contents of Deuteronomy for 37 days, the month of Shevat (which lasts 30 days) until Adar 7 is considered an opportune time to renew your study of the Torah.

Tu B'Shevat - New Years for Trees

According to the sage Shammai, the "Rosh Hashanah for Trees" occurs on the 15th of Shevat (i.e., Tu B'Shevat). This was originally the date selected when tithes (ma'aser) from fruit trees were due to be given to the priests, though now it is observed throughout modern Israel as a sort of national "Arbor Day."  It is customary for children to plant trees in the land of Israel (or to donate money to help plant trees in Israel). It is also tradition to eat a new fruit from the Land of Israel on this date in order to recite the blessing over fruit trees and the Shehecheyanu blessing.  Some people stay up all night on Tu B'Shevat reciting all the passages from the Scriptures (and other traditional literature) that relate to fruit, being fruitful, etc. This is somewhat similar to the custom of tikkun leil Shavuot (i.e., reading excerpts from the all the books of Tanakh and the Mishnah throughout the night of Shavuot).

Since the Torah alludes that human life is like "the tree of the field," i.e., כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה, Deut. 20:19), some of the sages mark the fifteenth of Shevat as sort of mystical holiday as well. The Kabbalists of sixteenth-century Safed developed a special Tu B'Shevat Seder that focused on eating fruits as a way of expressing teshuvah for the original sin of having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Rosh Chodesh Blessing

The following (simplified) blessing can be recited to ask the LORD to help you for the coming new month:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֵיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ חדֶשׁ טוֹב בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אָמֵן

ye·hi · ra·tzon · mil·fa·ne·kha · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu · ve·lo·hei · a·vo·tei·nu
she·te·cha·desh · a·lei·nu · cho·desh · tov · ba'a·do·nei·nu · Ye·shu·a · ha·ma·shi·ach · A·men
 

"May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good month in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Amen."



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Winter Holidays

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