Sunday, January 29, 2012

Many Generations Back Jews Living in Jerusalem's Old City Gave Each Other Mishloach Manot on Tu B'Shvat

One of the things I love about writing this blog is discovering how customs normally associated with one holiday have been adapted by different Jewish communities to another. Take the Purim practice of giving Mishloach Manot.  Who would think that this custom would apply to Tu B'Shvat? A seventh generation Israeli whose forebears originally lived in Jerusalem's Old City reports that way back when in the Jewish Quarter, people sent trays filled with fruits, nuts and seeds to one another.

I can only give an educated guess as to why. There has been a continual Jewish presence in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter since the 8th Century BCE. The Tu B'Shvat Seder dates (forgive the pun) back to the 17th century. The term Mishloach Manot literally means "sending portions" -- ensuring that everyone has enough food for the feast. Let's connect the dots. Seven generations back leads us to somewhere in the mid-19th century. Jews living in Jerusalem back then were not exactly wealthy. In all probability, they observed the ritual of a Tu B'Shvat Seder. But what if they didn't have enough money for fruits and seeds? Aha! Mishloach Manot, of course.

As I said, it's only a hunch, but there's no guesswork as to what fruits are eaten on Tu B'Shvat. All you have to do is bite into 5 of the 7 Species: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates are all native to Israel. I say let's expand the list and teach our children about other fruits Israel is famous for (I know that Zvuvi has provided you with the latest innovation).

Let's start with prickly pears, commonly known in Israel as the Sabra fruit. Yes, it's the best way to explain the Israeli personality -- tough and thorny on the outside, sweet and soft on the inside. Please don't forget lovable and loyal.

Need another juicy Israeli fruit tidbit? Try our oranges.
I know that oranges and Florida are synonymous to you, but Israel put oranges on the European market map with its famous Jaffa brand. When Spain and Portugal started to heat up the competition, we branched out by developing unusual citrus varieties.

Finally, how about a new Pitaya hybrid Made in Israel?

Have I helped you make seder -- order -- about fruits for Tu B'Shvat? I hope so. Happy New Tree Year. Enjoy all the fruit that they bear.

Dried Fruit & Nuts Photo Credit
Prickly Pear Photo Credit
Oranges Photo Credit
Pitaya Photo Credit

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