Month 11:16, Week 3:1 (Rishon/Pesach), Year 5935:303 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 8 February 2012
Tree Festival or Occult Seder?
Most Zionist Jews, and some Messianics, observe a Talmudic festival called Tu B'Shat, or the 'New Year for Trees' on the 15th day of the 11th month - today. It is also known as Rosh haShanah La'Ilanot or 'The New Year of the Trees'. In the Republic of Israel, this officially marks the beginning of spring. A ceremonial meal consisting of the main fruit produce of the Holy Land are eaten, such as figs, pomegranates, dates and figs - usually dried.
"Learn not the way of the heathen" (Jer.10:2, KJV).
Since 1890 a tradition of tree-planting has also arisen, perhaps influenced in part by American Arbor Day, though perhaps more strongly by another tradition that the founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, in 1898 planted a young Cypress tree in a small Jewish settlement called Motza on his way to Jerusalem to meet with the visiting German Kaiser Wilhelm II. He did this to symbolise future Jewish settlement of the land.
The name Tu B'Shvat is a relatively modern one, the festival originally being known as Hamisha Asar BiShvat or 'Fifteenth of Shevat'. Tu B'Shvat is a combination of two words: tu, a construction of the letters tet (9) and vav (6) (in modern Hebrew), which together add up to 15; and Sh'vat, a Babylonian loan word for the 11th month brought back by the Judahite exiles to Judea. So the name is really just a date on the calendar.
While the planting of trees is a good thing and should be encouraged (Is.41:19-20), no such religious or secular ceremonial observation is commanded in Torah, neither is there any such biblical concept as a 'new year for trees'. The Torah does command us not to willfully destroy trees during warfare (Dt.20:19), indicating their value. In the coming New Jerusalem supernatural trees, having healing and nutritional properties in their leaves and fruits, respectively, figure strongly (Ezek.47:12; Rev.22:1-3). Throughout scripture, trees have key symbolic meanings that are important to understand - see my 7-part series of sermons, A Garden in the Mind and collection of articles on the Garden of Eden.
But in the Middle Ages, Tu B'Shvat was transformed by kabbalists, under the guidance of Isaac Luria, into a mystical sacrament involving 10 fruits and four cups of wine. By partaking of these and reciting certain blessings, these occultists believed that human beings and the world could be brought closer to perfection. This kabbalistic seder (that mimics the Passover seder) has since been revived in the Republic of Israel and is now celebrated by both secular and religious Jews with special haggatot having been written for this purpose. There are even ecological variations of this for secularists.
Tu B'Shvat, which has its origin in the oral tradition of the Rabbis known as the Mishna with both modern secular, socialistic Zionistic elements and the occultic rituals of the pagan kabbalists inserted into the mix, is seen therefore both to be a highly unkosher man-made tradition and an occultic religious one rolled together that should be shunned by true believers. Accordingly this ministry has no part in its observance and counsels messianics to avoid it.