A vessel filled with water.Significance of the Month
Shevat is the 11th month of the Jewish calendar. Moses began explicating the Book of Deuteronomy, his final address to the Children of Israel, on Rosh Chodesh Shevat. Shevat contains the final new year of the Jewish calendar, the New Year for Trees. The House of Shammai maintains that this New Year occurs on the first of Shevat, while the House of Hillel (which we follow) holds that it is on the 15th. HolidaysTu B'Shevat
, the Jewish New Year for Trees is on the 15th of Shevat. This holiday was significantly developed by the Kabbalists of 16th Century Safed who saw it as a way to celebrate the Kabbalistic understanding of the world, which is best symbolized by nature. To celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the kabbalists developed a Tu B'Shevat seder in which we eat many types of fruit and recognize the different kabbalistic realms through which our world exists. The holiday was further developed by the Zionist movement which saw in the New Year for Trees a natural opportunity to promote its goal of developing the Land of Israel.
Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat on which we read the Torah portion Beshalach from the Torah, which contains the Song of the Sea, always falls during the month of Shevat. This portion also contains the Song of Miriam in which Miriam leads the Israelite women in singing and dancing to celebrate their salvation at the sea. The haftarah for this portion contains the song of another woman leader - Deborah the Prophetess. Deborah's song celebrates the victory of the Israelites over the Canaanites and Sisra their general. Sisra was killed by another famed Jewish woman, Yael. Women to CelebrateMiriam
- Miriam is one of seven prophetesses in our tradition. Miriam figures prominently in the Passover story and in the Israelites' celebration at the Red Sea, where she led the Israelite women in song and dancing. According to tradition, the Children of Israel had water in the desert for 40 years because of Miriam.
Deborah - She was a prophetess and one of the earliest Judges. She would sit under a palm tree known as "the Palm of Deborah" and the Children of Israel would come to her for judgment. She helped to lead the war against the Yavin, the King of Canaan. Upon the Israelites' victory Deborah composed a victory song known as the Song of Deborah. To learn more about Deborah see the Book of Judges, chapters 4 and 5.
Yael - In Deborah's battle against the Canaanites, the Canaanite general was Sisra. He escaped the battlefield and sought refuge in Yael's tent. Yael invited him in and told him that she would provide cover for him from the pursuing Israelite army. She then fed Sisra warm milk so he would fall asleep. When he was sleeping Yael drove a tent peg through Sisra's skull, thereby finalizing the Israelites' victory.Famous Women's YahrzeitsHenrietta Szold
- 29 Shevat 5705 (February 12, 1945). Founder of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization. Hadassah is the largest Jewish organization in America. Szold was a forerunner of Jewish women's liberation. She was granted permission to study Jewish texts at the then male-only Jewish Theological Seminary. When her mother died in 1916 Henrietta refused the offer of a family friend to say the mourners' Kaddish on her behalf, opting instead to say it for herself. Szold spent a large part of her life overseeing Hadassah's operations in Palestine.Text Studies
Trees, Life, & War - In discussing the rules of war, the Torah makes a statement comparing humans to the trees of the field. What is the connection? This modern Talmud page examines the value of trees in the Torah and subsequent traditional commentaries.Trees, Life and War
(PDF file 6Kb)
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Parshat Beshalach Archives - The month of Shevat always contains the Shabbat on which we read Parshat Beshalach, which includes the Song of the Sea and Miriam's Song. The haftarah is about Deborah's victory over the Canaanites and the song that she composed. Hillel's Torah Portion Archives contains many interesting text studies that deal with these topics.
Tu B'Shevat Seder - The Kabbalists of 16th Century Safed developed the Tu B'Shevat seder as a unique way to celebrate the Jewish New Year for Trees. The Seder involves drinking four cups of wine and eating fruit that represent different realms of creation and different universes in the Kabbalists' understanding of the world. Tu B'Shevat seders have been more recently influenced by the rise of Zionism and environmentalism. Hillel's Tu B'Shevat seder provides an interactive and engaging format to discover Tu B'Shevat.
The Hillel Tu B'Shevat Seder (PDF file 580Kb)
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Composing our Own Songs - In Shevat we celebrate the songs of two Biblical women - Miriam and Deborah. Take time to compose your song. It has been noted that song functions as the voice that gives life to a person's uniqueness. Think of how you would compose your own song. What style of music would it be? What kinds of instruments would you use? What would the words or themes be?
Judaism and the environment - Tu B'Shevat has become a holiday that celebrates Judaism's connection to the environment. How do you relate to the environment? Do your Jewish values impact this at all?
Song & Music - One of the prevalent themes of Shevat is song - we read and celebrate the songs of Miriam and Deborah. Discuss your feelings about song and music. Do you express yourself musically? Through poetry? What kind of music do you listen to? Do you listen to different music depending on your mood?