Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is —
Blessings dear Brothers and Sisters, planted by the rivers of waters by The Master Husbandman. May we bring forth much fruit for His glory. May you be blessed and encouraged, and may HE ALONE be blessed and glorified.
Today is Tu b’shvat: the birthday of the trees, the celebration of the fruit, a day for planting trees, eating fruit and singing. Another opportunity to give thanks to The Lord, The Giver of all good things and to turn our eyes UP and say heartily to HIM, “THANK YOU.”
It is not a commanded holiday and the stories of the roots of the traditions are varied, as well as the carrying out of them, but it is ALWAYS good to stop and take notice and thank Him. That is what we do here today.
All through my growing up years in the diasporia, which for me was America, a FIRM Jewish tradition was to “BUY TREES IN ISRAEL” for every occasion, but especially as a memorial to a loved one. I still have framed here in my apartment a tree certificate from 1947 when my family planted trees in memory of my Grandmother. Planting trees in Israel IS something we all did.
The name tu b’shvat is simply the date, the 15th of the month of Shvat. In Hebrew, numbers are traditionally the letters of the alphabet (or, aleph bet) and tu (written טו in Hebrew) stands for the 15th. For the sake of living in the modern world, Hebrew ALSO incorporates numbers, but in scripture and on the calendar, the letters are still the rule. That is one of the reasons that Israelis often SEEM ignorant when a Christian is seeking to share scripture with them and perhaps referring to “Isaiah 53,” when to a Jewish person it is familiar as Yeshi’a’hu nun gimel. Ah, the joys of communication!
Back to tu b’shvat.
Coming home from work on the train yesterday I wondered at the different atmosphere. Usually, on Friday afternoon, the train is full of Yeshiva students from English speaking countries traveling to their host homes for Shabat. It can be NOISY and BOISTEROUS! I looked around and wondered at the more pleasant atmosphere. Where were they all? AH YES! Tu b’shvat! They were likely at ceremonies in the forests, planting trees and learning about the sacredness and the history of the land, the promises, what the trees do and how they are to be treated according to scripture. One example is found in Levit. 19:23-25:
“When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord. And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the Lord your God.”
This ordinance is still observed today, even on many of the secular kibbutzim.
At Shabat dinner last night, with our daughter and family, my husband and I recalled our first tu’b’shvat here in the land after our aliyah. We were both in ulpan (language class) and so along with the 5 months of intensive language learning we are also taught our history, geography, culture, and every other thing that you can think of. On tu b’shvat we were piled onto buses and taken to the forest to a tree planting ceremony. We took pictures of one another as each one planted our first seedlings into the soil of our ancient homeland: Eretz Yisroel – The Land of Israel.
It was quite an emotional moment as I prayed also, silently, that our family would be well planted and bear fruit for HIS kingdom here, rooted beside the living water. It was at the beginning of our journey.
You know that Israel has gone from desert to GREEN in the years since 1948 and that the distinction between Israeli territory and Arab territory is actually called “the green line.” It is easy to distinguish that “green line” as one drives along. I have mentioned before that God is indeed God of the living and is life giving. It is a blessing to be reminded of this in the bursting forth of the abundant white almond blossoms filling the countryside right now.
I made my usual Friday morning stop at the shuk to pick up a hot challa for Shabat dinner, although I did not make it to IFI prayer meeting due to not feeling well. I hadn’t yet gotten dried fruit to give as gifts, so stopped at a dried fruit and spice shop and picked out an arranged plate of various fruits and nuts, prepared for tu’b’shvat.
“You are my first customer of the day,” the sales man grinned at me. “I included these special raisins here. They are better than the Kazakhstani ones. You will like them. AND, I will only charge you 60shekels instead of 65 since you are my first customer,’ he said proudly as I gulped at the price.
It’s always fun to be the “first sale of the day” and to wish them a day of blessing.
We read of the early rains and the latter rains in the scriptures and we have now entered them time of the latter rains – even as we pray for such spiritual LATTER RAINS. The rain now is softer. The ground rich and able to absorb it and with the sun bursting forth more strongly than it has all winter, you can literally FEEL the earth coming alive again, stirring, swelling with new life.
Some of us are physically past the time of bearing fruit, but we never pass the spiritual time of bearing. No vacation from His work in us, thankfully NOT for us to weigh and measure the bushels or we’d all likely give up. HE does the producing and HE does the assessment AND the multiplication AND the feeding of the multitude AND the dunging. We get to ABIDE. But we also get a stern warning that is so appropriate for the day we live in. Oh I take it to heart for I’m SO easily deceived through the weaknesses of my own nature: Matthew 7:15-20:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
I pray for you and for myself this tu’b’shvat that we will ABIDE in The Vine and bare much GOOD fruit for His glory. May we be thankful for the fruit in and through one another and trust Him to bare that fruit through us as we gaze at Him. Thank you for your prayers, your gracious care, your thoughtfulness.
Your sister J in Jerusalem