This Month's for You, So Plant a Tree
And YHWH said to Moshe and to Aharon in the land of Egypt saying: This month is for you, the first of months, the first it is for you for the months of the year.
Your Torah Navigator
1. Why is it significant that we count our months from this point?
2. Why can't this commandment wait until Sinai? Why does the calendar have to be set in Egypt?
These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel in the country across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plains near Suf, between Paran and Tofel, Lavan, Hatzerot, and Di-Zahav -- 11 days (it is) from Horev by the route of Mount Se'ir (going) by Kadesh-Barnea. And it was in the fortieth year, the eleventh New-Moon one (day) after the New Moon, Moshe spoke to the children of Israel according to all that YHWH had commanded him concerning them...
Your Torah Navigator
1. The eleventh new moon is also the eleventh month, the month of Shevat. God spoke to Moshe and Aharon on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Now Moshe is speaking to the children of Israel on Rosh Chodesh Shevat. Is there any connection?
2. The Book of Deuteronomy is often referred to as the "Mishneh Torah" or the "Torah Review" because much is reviewed in the book, but there is new information as well. What's the purpose of the repetition?
Talmud Rosh Hashanah 11a
Rabbi Yehoshua says the world was created in the month of Nissan and Rabbi Eliezer says that the world was created in Tishrei.
Your Talmud Navigator
1. What does it mean that the world was created in Nissan? Does it mean creation began, or does it mean the creation was finished?
2. What difference does it make?
Talmud Sota 2a
Rabbi Yehuda says in the name of Rav: 40 days before a fetus is formed a heavenly voice calls out: The daughter of so and so will be married to so and so.
The world was finished on either the first of Nissan or the first of Tishrei which means the world began on the 25th of Adar or the 25th of Elul.
If the world was created on the first day of Nissan, then when the verse in our Parsha says that "This month is for you..." It is saying that we have a special relationship to the creation and the Creator. If we count back 40 days from the beginning of creation -- the 25th of Adar -- we see that the world was conceived on Tu B'Shevat, for The Talmud teaches "Rabbi Yehuda says in the name of Rav: 40 days before a fetus is formed a heavenly voice calls out: The daughter of so and so will be married to so and so.." (Sota 2a) We belonged to God already on Tu B'shevat according to this tradition because the Torah teaches, "This month, this "Chodesh" -- chodesh from the root Chadash which means "new" -- this newness is for you.
We plant trees, renewing our world, renewing ourselves and renewing our covenant, for it was during the month of Shevat that Moshe taught us the Torah before we entered the Land. The Torah that prepared us for our entry was during the month we now plant seeds. It is no wonder that the Torah is called a tree of life.
Prepared by Rabbi Avi Weinstein, Director of the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, Hillel's International Center.