Religious : : Religious Committee Report

In January we celebrate Tu BiShvat, New Year’s Day for trees.
Wait a minute you say. “Isn’t Rosh Hashanah the New Year’s Day?” Yes & No is the correct answer.

Rosh Hashanah, observed on the 1st day of the month of Tishrei in the Hebrew calendar, com- memorates the creation of the World so it is a New Year’s Day. It typically falls in September and in ancient times was used for calculating the start of Sabbatical and Jubilee years when land was left fallow. This day is established in the Torah: Numbers 29:1-2 /Leviticus 23:24-25. Tu BiShvat, the 15th day of Shvat, typically falls in January or February. According to the To- rah, fruits cannot be consumed from trees less than three years old and Tu BiShvat was used as the starting date for determining the age of the trees. Thus, it is New Year’s Day for trees.

“Now I understand … Jews observe two New Year’s Day.”
No, we observe FOUR Jewish new year’s days.
The 1st day of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar is also New Year’s Day. It occurs in the early Spring, usually April, and is seen as the anniversary of the founding of the Jewish people when they escaped from Egypt during the Passover story. This day is identified twice in the Torah: Exodus 12:2 and Deuteronomy 16:1.

Finally, we have the 1st day of Elul, the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in the late summer (August). According to the Mishnah, this was the new year for animal tithes. It was used to determine the start date for the animal tithe to the priestly class in ancient Israel, similar to how we use April 15th in the U.S. as tax day.

Here in the United States, and elsewhere, we also observe January 1st as New Year’s Day. Thus, we Jews really have five new year’s days. We are indeed a most thoughtful People!

Sandy Shapiro and Arnold Miller, Co-Chairs