Tu bishevat

February 1, 2015

This coming Wednesday will be Tu bi shevat

Tu bi shevat is not just another date! (Pun intended)

Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal in the Derash Moshe asks a basic question. Why the celebration? After all tu bi shevat is a TAX Deadline. You have to give the tithe on the fruit & vegetables by Tu bi shevat. You cannot use next years produce to pay last years debt.

He answers beautifully. Everything we earn/receive is from Hashem. His intention is that we keep 90% and give 10% to the poor. Actually it’s a great tax rate. Can you imagine?

When we have paid our dues, we can then relax and enjoy what we have , sure in the knowledge that what we are eating, drinking and enjoying is actually ours and that we are not stealing from the poor.

Tu bi shevat is the deadline for produce in what was basically an agrarian society. Even today, it should remind us that there is a deadline for charity. Winter is over. Summer is coming. Another year of work and trying to make a living. But don’t forget to make sure that you have given 10% to the poor, widows, orphans, homeless. Then you will be blessed with a success year. After all, we are Hashem’s agents in the world. After all, If we religiously give 10% in charity maybe He will send us more money to tithe. It’s in His interest….

In 1882 Baron Edmond de Rothschild’s Carmel (East) Wine Company produced its first bottles of wine in Rishon Letziyon. At that time Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (Netziv) was the rav and head of the famed yeshiva in Volozhin in then Lithuania. He was also the titular chairman of the Chovevei Tziyon – The Lovers of Zion – the organization that encouraged Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel and helped support monetarily the nascent but growing population of the “yishuv hayashan” – the pre-Zionist settlers in the Land of Israel of the nineteenth century.

His nephew, Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein (the author of Torah Temima, a popular commentary to the Torah) lived with his uncle and aunt in their home while being a very young student at the yeshiva. He recorded for us in his writings that the Carmel Wine Company sent a bottle of wine from its fist production efforts to the Netziv in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Jewish settlers in the Land of Israel. When that bottle of Israeli wine finally reached the small village of Volozhin and was delivered to the house of the Netziv , the great rabbi entered his bedroom and changed into his Shabat garments in honor of a bottle of wine produced by Jews from the grapes of the Holy Land and upon which all of the agricultural mitzvoth of the Torah had been fulfilled. I have often thought about this story when I hear Jews say that they prefer wines from France, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa, California, etc. over Israeli wines. They just don’t get it!

Lechayyim ( I’m going to open a bottle of Ninveh!)

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