The Adams Street Shul

Congregation Agudas Achim Anshei Sfard

planting trees for tu b'shvat (15th of Shevat)This Thursday, January 20, will be Chamisha Assar B'Shevat, known also as Tu B-Shevat.  (Both names signify the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat.)  The first mishnah in the tractate of Rosh Hashanah lists this festival as the “New Year of the Tree.”


We mark this day by refraining from reciting the somber prayer of Tachanun and by eating the fruits of trees which are grown in Israel, such as dates, figs, oranges, etc.


One important lesson to be learned from Tu B-Shevat is that, just as we have a Rosh Hashanah in the month of Tishrei, so too each tree, as well as all of Nature, is under divine jurisdiction.



The Fast of Asara B'Tevet coincided with Friday last week. This is very rare, but since the T’nach specified this day of the month, it has to be observed on the tenth, even if it falls on Friday. One of the reasons why Fridays are avoided for public fast days wherever possible is because we do not want to enter Shabbat in a depressed and hungry state.

I want to share with you some of my feelings of last Friday. I thought it would be very important for us to have a Mincha service prior to Shabbat, which would reflect the fast by by the reading of the Torah, etc. However, it was very early in the day, and we have a small shul with a limited membership. I contacted as many people as possible and could only hope that we would have the necessary quorum for the minyan. I was very doubtful of success.

ImageFriday, December 17, is the English date of the Fast of Asarah B-Tevet, which means the tenth of Tevet. It is a comparatively “minor” fast day, insofar as it is not as famous as, for example, Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av. The fast, which begins at dawn, commemorates the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, culminating in the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the first Holy Temple.

This day has taken on a far greater significance over the past years, since it was declared to be the official day of mourning for the millions of our brothers and sisters who died in the Shoah, but whose dates of death are unknown. Sadly, I have many such relatives, so I light a yahrzeit candle or them and say Kaddish on this day.

WeinbergRabbi-lightingChanukiahThe first light of Chanukah will be lit this Wednesday evening, December 1.

The ideal place to set the menorah is at a window facing the most used thoroughfare. The reason for this is that we are to publicize the miracle of Chanukah, proclaiming to the entire world that freedom of religion is everyone’s responsibility.

The proper time to light the candles is when night falls. However, if the family will assemble later, one should wait for them.