Indian Jewish Congregation of USA Launches Its First Newsletter
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The Indian Jewish Congregation of USA is embarking on something new, the starting of a newsletter in the month of Shevat, the eleventh month of the civil year on the Hebrew calendar and the fifth month of the ecclesiastical year. It is a winter month of 30 days. It was on the first of Shevat of the year 2488 from creation, Moses convened the Jewish people and began the 37 day “review of the Torah” contained in the Book of Deuteronomy (Devarim), which he concluded on the day of his passing on Adar 7 of that year.
The later sages have, therefore, said that the first of Shevat is comparable to the day of the giving of the Torah. On that day they began to receive the Book of Deuteronomy from G-d, through Moses. These 37 days are especially suited for renewed inspiration in the study of Torah and the doing of Mitzvot. Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, is a holiday also known as the New Year for Trees. This year it will be on February 3rd. Judaism has several different “new years.” Tu B’Shevat is the New Year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. Lev19:23-25 states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years. The fourth years’ fruit is for G-d, and after that, you can eat the fruit. Tu B’Shevat is not mentioned in the Torah. Only in the Mishnah is it mentioned as a dispute between the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai where Rabbi Hillel said the proper date for the holiday was the 15th of Shevat whereas Rabbi Shammai said it should be the First of Shevat. We follow Rabbi Hillel.
There are a few customs or observances related to this day. One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day. Some people plant trees on this day.
In India, the tradition was for every Bene Israel household to perform the Eliyahoo Hannabi ceremony. For those who wanted to have a community Eliyahoo Hannabi, a special trip was made to Khandala, near Alibag in the Konkan district to perform the Eliyahoo Hannabi ceremony at the rock where supposedly the track marks of Eliyahoo Hannabi’s chariot can be seen. This was the time when he ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire. This day was thus called the Eliyahoo Hannabi cha Oorus. Some synagogues had a communal Eliyahoo Hannabi.
There is a story in the Talmud of and old person, Honi, who was observed planting a carob tree. When asked if he really expected to live long enough to consume the fruits of his labor, he replied: “I was born into a world flourishing with ready pleasures. My ancestors planted for me, and now I plant for my children…”