Sunday, July 05, 2015

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.


The Fast of the Fourth

Sunday, July 5
The Fast of 17th of Tammuz

Weekly Scripture Reading

July 4 / Tammuz 17, 5775

Parashah: Balak - “Balak"

— Torah:
Numbers 22:2 — 25:9

— Haftarah:
Micah 5:6 — 6:8
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 6

This week's Parashah is an example of how God sees the Israelis in spite of their shortcomings - without iniquity and blameless - not because of what they are doing, but because of the promise He has made to the forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov, that the nation of Israel will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; a light to the Gentiles. This parallels the view that God has of us, the believers - without iniquity and blameless - sanctified not because of anything that we are doing, but because of the work of the one who covered our sins, Yeshua the Messiah....

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