Happy New Year To The Land Of Israel!
© 2005/5765 Ariel Natan Pasko
It's New Years again, and Jews are celebrating. This past Tishrei, in the Hebrew calendar (usually around Sept.-Oct.), Jews the world over celebrated the anniversary of the creation of the world culminating in the creation of humanity, commonly known as Rosh HaShannah, the Day of Judgment and coronation of the G-D of Israel as "King of the kings of kings". Now, Jews are celebrating another New Year, Tu B'Shvat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat), which marks the New Year for trees.
Tu B'Shvat falls in the winter (this year January 25th, 2005), when most of the winter rains have fallen and the fruits are just beginning to ripen. There's a famous Israeli song that begins "HaShekaydia porachat...The Almond trees are blossoming..." and they really do this time of year, I've checked before in the Jerusalem forest.
Judaism as described in the Torah and further explained through millennia of rabbinical discussion, is highly land centered, there are numerous agricultural laws relating to the Land of Israel.
By the way, Rosh HaShannah in Tishrei also relates to agriculture and the Land of Israel, for example it establishes the Sabbatical year. Plowing and planting (as described in Leviticus 25:2-5), are forbidden beginning from the first of Tishrei, in the seventh year of the Sabbatical cycle. On the first of Tishrei, in the fiftieth year (the Jubilee year), following seven cycles of Sabbatical years, all tenured land is returned to its original owners. It starts the financial year for the purpose of figuring tithes of vegetables and grains. One tenth of a farmer's produce from that particular year, which begins and ends with the first of Tishrei, had to be given to the Levites and priests in Jerusalem, at the Holy Temple when it stood.
Tu B'Shvat is significant in that it establishes the age of trees
for the purpose of "orlah," (the biblical prohibition against
eating fruit that is grown during the first three years after a
tree is planted) and defines the agricultural year for the purpose of tithing fruit, something that was of great significance in Temple times and will be again when the Jewish People rebuild their Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Tu B'Shvat is a mini-holiday on the Jewish calendar when it is
customary to plant trees in Israel (the Zionist-Green Revolution
has repopulated the land with millions of acres of trees since the late 19th century), to stress environmental awareness, and to eat fruits that are specific to the Land of Israel, like dates, figs, grapes, olives, and pomegranates.
I occasionally get feedback letters or comments posted to my
articles, arguing that the "Palestinians" have as much right to the land as the Jews. Well obviously from a biblical perspective that is utter nonsense. Arabs come from the Arabian Peninsula, and invaded the Middle East and North Africa long after the world "knew" that the place of the Jewish People was the Land of Israel. G-D gave it to them, and forever (check your bible).
The story of the Jewish People (Judaism) unfolds through history; the promise of the land to the Patriarchs, Egyptian slavery, the Exodus, the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and the return of the Jewish People to the "Promised Land". Many know the Jews are called the "Chosen" people, but do you realize that the Land of Israel is the "Chosen" land.
Jewish history is unique. Go ahead and rant at me if you want, but it's true, go check it out. "Our religion is uni-national and our nation is uni-religious," to quote the former prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin.
And the Jewish People's relationship to its homeland is also unique...
Sometimes, when attacked by leftists or Arabs, or Muslims, or
atheists, I've been told, "but you Jews haven't lived there for
hundreds of years, what gives you the right to..." There are lots of refutations of this; that Jews were forcibly exiled from their land, that some Jews always lived on the land, that Jews always claimed it was theirs throughout their bitter exile, that Jews several times attempted military re-conquests; and that Jews for nearly 2,000 years dreamed of the day that they would return en mass and resettle it, rebuild it, and liberate it from foreign occupation.
But, I can only truly answer that; the Jewish People have a unique and unbreakable relationship to the Land of Israel, that wasn't established by us, but by G-D himself, only Jews can really feel it (it's on a soul level). Others connection to their homeland isn't the same.
As the first Chief Rabbi of the renewed Jewish settlement in the
Land of Israel in the early 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, wrote in the beginning of his book, Orot (Lights):
"The Land of Israel is not something peripheral [to Judaism], it is not an external acquisition or national asset, it is not a means to collective solidarity [national unity], nor even to strengthen the nation's physical or spiritual existence. The Land of Israel is an independent unit [with it's own value], bound by the bond-of-life and a living attachment to the Jewish People, connected to them through a deep inner uniqueness, with the nation's existence."
He then explains, "Therefore, it is impossible to comprehend,
understand or appreciate the essence of this inner unique sanctity and holiness of the Land of Israel, and to reveal and actualize the depth of love for her [by the Jewish People] through any form of human conceptualization, or rational human understanding, but only by the "Spirit of G-D" that is in the soul of the Jewish People and acts on the nation as a whole."
Rabbi Kook continues, "The view, that the Land of Israel is only an external, peripheral value serving as a cohesive force, even when it comes to reinforce the Jewish idea in the Diaspora...The Judaism [Jews] in the Diaspora will only be strengthened through a deep involvement with the Land of Israel. Only through their longing for the Land of Israel, will exilic Judaism receive its inherent qualities and essential characteristics. Yearning for Salvation, is the force that preserves Exilic Judaism, it gives the Jews of the Diaspora the power to continue, whereas the Judaism of the Land of
Israel, is the very Salvation itself."
Living in the Land of Israel and keeping G-D's Torah is the very
redemption, for the individual Jew. National salvation awaits the
It doesn't matter if a Jew was born in Russia, Poland, Morocco,
France, Argentina, or America, the Land of Israel is his
"inheritance" through his fathers, from G-D. Christians and Muslims know that. Honest Muslims, like Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, the secretary-general of the Italian Muslim Association will tell you so.
The Jewish People's love for the Land of Israel knows no bounds of time or space, it is implanted in their souls, and the stronger a Jews' Jewish identity is, his practice of Judaism and adherence to G-D's Torah and Mitzvot (commandments), that love will burn like a raging inferno able to purify everything.
I direct your attention to the valiant Jewish "settlers" in Judea,
Samaria (the West Bank) and especially Gaza, where they are being rocketed and motor attacked daily (over 5250 times at last count). Those brave pioneers have withstood for several years, the most hideous outrages, that a sick suicidal society (the "Palestinians") could throw at them. Their love for the land of Israel, their connection to her, is eternal and unbreakable.
So, when I sit down to my Tu B'Shvat Seder (a meal with Land of Israel fruits, and a ritual order), like a Passover Seder, I'll be
connecting to my "roots". As it says, "For man is [like] the tree
of the field" (Deut. 20:19), i.e. people need trees. And, wishing
the Land of Israel, a Happy New Year!
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko