Judaism Eternal: Selected Essays from the Writings of Samson Raphael Hirsch - Vol. 1

By I. Grunfeld; Samson Raphael Hirsch | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER V
SHEBAT

The fifteenth of Shebat,

--The Law of Maaser--Parashath Shekalim.

THE fifteenth of Shebat is

"New Year for Trees." The renewal of strength which the winter season brings to Nature has already been largely achieved, and the new sap already begins to course in the veins of the trees. Hence the Jewish law reckons the birthday of the fruits from the fifteenth of Shebat, and regulates accordingly the whole series of duties which the annual gifts of Nature impose upon the Jew.

In the Jewish land, where the Divine law has full scope, nothing was supposed to germinate or blossom or ripen without bringing the Jew obligations as well as enjoyment. A duty is attached to every enjoyment, and it alone gives the enjoyment its true taste by turning what otherwise would be selfish and animal into a human acknowledgment of Divine love.

For us the fifteenth of Shebat is only another calendar injunction, and its only significance in our Galuth-life is that there are some faint traces of festivity in its synagogue service, and it may have some bearing on the reckoning of the "Orlah" years.

All the same we will dwell a little on this fixture because it gives us the opportunity of looking somewhat more deeply into the spirit of Judaism. And every such opportunity is welcome. For we suffer from nothing so much as the lack of a correct and true knowledge of our own Jewish faith.

Hunted like wild animals, herded into ghettos, driven into our humble homes or into the four modest walls where we could devote ourselves to religious contemplation, we seemed to the superficial observer to be leading a joyless and unsociable life. We stepped into the public eye and showed signs of activity only in the market place and in business and industrial life.

-35-

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