This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish holidays’

Tu b’Shvat (New Year of Trees) Seder

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 9, 2012

Candle and Fruit

Yesterday was Tu b’Shvat (= 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat), the Jewish New Year of Trees. The earliest reference to this new year is post-biblical (Mishnah RH 1a). It was developed by the kabbalists in Safed, Israel, in the 17th century. That seems to be when the custom of holding a Tu b’Shvat Seder (modelled on the Passover Seder) began. Nowadays, schoolchildren plant trees on Tu b’Shvat and everyone eats fruit. Lots of fruit.

The custom of holding elaborate Tu b’Shvat Seders seems to be fairly recent. Unlike the Passover Seder, which has stringent requirements, the Tu b’Shvat Seder is not standardized (here’s an example). Not all families hold a Seder. Some prepare a festive meal with the Seven Species of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, according to Deut. 8:8). Others eat a few pieces of fruit and call it a day. Still others hold long, elaborate communal seders. My husband really enjoys these, so this year I agreed to go with him to a Seder organized by the Nachalat Yehudah congregation (Carlebach minyan) in our neighbourhood. I stayed for 2 hours, up to the second cup of wine. My husband came back at 11:30 and said they were still going strong.

Everyone walked around the table at the beginning of the Seder, a custom that is inspired by the Sephardic custom of the leader of the Passover Seder carrying the matzah wrapped in a napkin on his shoulder and circling the table. (By the way, there’s also a Rosh Hashanah Seder at the New Year.)

Tu Beshvat Seder

Tu b’Shvat haggadah

Tu Beshvat Seder

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Going to the Dogs

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 29, 2009

My knitting, that is. I don’t own a dog and probably never will. I’m more of a cat and small rodent person because I’m lazy and cats and rodents don’t have to be walked. But I do like dogs. Friends asked me to knit a dog sweater for their minpin (truthfully, she’s more mini-mutt than minpin) because it’s so hard to find dog sweaters in Israel.

Dog sweater in progress

I started the dog sweater just before Yom Kippur, using the Magic Loop techique, which allows you to use a long circular needle in place of double-pointed needles or a short circular. After the first couple rounds, handling the twisty loops becomes much easier, but I confess that I switched to 16″ circulars after about 6 inches. I would definitely use this technique if I had only long circulars (which tend to be the only circulars readily available in Israel) but I can knit much faster with small circulars and double-pointed needles. So it’s a useful technique and I’m glad to have learned it, but I will probably use my painstakingly gathered collection of small circulars and dpns in the future.

I knitted 3/4 of the dog sweater, loosely based a pattern posted by SpunKnit. In the end, I ripped it out and started over with a larger needle. The original size, with the doubled Sirdar Snuggly Double Knit, produced a very dense sweater. Laura said she wanted a cosy, warm dog sweater, not a bullet-proof vest.


On a different note, we’re well into the Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur was yesterday. I came through the fast without a headache, although I’m a caffeine addict and I don’t bother cutting down before fasts. Lucky physiology, I guess.

As I was getting my morning cup of espresso and frothed milk in the cafeteria, I took this picture:

Hodesh Elul

Where else but in Israel would you find a stack of pamphlets on the religious laws of Elul (last month, a month of repentance and introspection) beside the cutlery dispenser in a work cafeteria?

Gmar tov!


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