Saturday, November 01, 2014

Messianic Significance to Tu b’Shevat

The 15th of the Jewish month Shevat is celebrated in modern times as a Jewish “Arbor Day.” Moses declares in Leviticus 19:23-25 that the age of trees mattered as to when its fruit could be eaten. For this reason, Rabbis of the Talmudic era chose the 15th of Shevat (i.e., Tu b’Shevat) as the “new year” for the trees. This was necessary to start the agricultural clock for tithing the fruit of the land. During the middle ages, Sephardic Jews under Kabalistic influence added a so-called “spiritual dimension” to the eating of fruit, and developed a special Tu b’Shevat Seder modeled after the Passover Seder. More recently (i.e., after the rise of Zionism) Tu b’Shevat became synonymous with the land of Israel, and thus Jews today plant trees to commemorate the day.

As Messianic Believers we have to ask ourselves what to do about Tu b’Shevat because there is no explicit commandment or example in Scripture to celebrate it (then again, some of our brothers in Yeshua celebrate “Reformation Day” so let’s not be too picky …). The strong Kabalistic sense to the holiday also should give us pause; we do not accept the Kabalah as Scripture, and the notion of “eating fruits to channel divine energy” simply has no basis in Scripture. Because the Levitical priesthood does not function today as it did in ancient Israel, there is no need to run a tithing clock, and thus we are running out of reasons to celebrate Tu b’Shevat.

However, the reason Messianic Believers should celebrate Tu b’Shevat is because this day is celebrated by Jews around the world, the very people with whom we want to reach. Our question is then rephrased as: is there a Scripturally-based interpretation we can derive from Tu b’Shevat today? How can we relate this festival to our faith in Messiah Yeshua?

Certainly one Messianic connection could be to celebrate the Tree of Life, the Torah (i.e., Written Scripture, all 66 books). But we already have such a holiday, Simchat Torah, the joy of the Torah.

The Kabalists celebrate the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil and the spiritual dimensions of eating fruit … this is altogether too un-Scriptural and not where we want to go.

We could use the festival to celebrate the harvest, the bountifulness of God’s provision. But we also have holidays such as Shavuot for this purpose. Let’s keep looking.

Tu b’Shavat is also referred to as a “new year for trees” … we already have other new years on the Jewish calendar so let's just enjoy the day without attaching any Scriptural significance to it.

Weekly Scripture Reading

For Shabbat
November 1 / Cheshvan 8, 5775

Parashah: Lech Lecha

— Torah:
Genesis 12:1 – 17:27

— Haftarah:
Isaiah 40:27 — 41:16


As for the previous Parshah, this Parshah is one of the most foundational in all of Scripture...

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