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ט״וּ בִּשְׁבָט | Torah and Haftarah Readings for the New Year’s Day for Trees, selected by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

There is no official public reading for Rosh haShanah la-Ilanot, the Jewish new year’s day for trees on Tu biShvat, the 15th of the month of Sh’vat. For those who wish to celebrate trees with a Torah and haftarah reading, here are my selections.

The Torah reading is discussing the creation of trees and plant life from the twofold creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, ending with the discussion of the trees of life and knowledge. It features a break between the first and second aliyot, similar to the break found in fast day readings.

The haftarah is an extended allegory from the book of Ezekiel where Israel is compared to a tree and the exile a replanting, ending with a consoling prophecy where the tree is replanted in its home soil as God does justice among all the trees.

Note: “The CAUSE” is used to translate the Divine Name YHVH, based on the philosophical idea of God as the Prime Mover and on the interpretation of the Name as a causative form of the copula – “causes to be.” “God” is used to translate the Divine Name Elohim.


Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)
Rishon — Genesis 1:11-13

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים תַּֽדְשֵׁ֤א הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ דֶּ֗שֶׁא עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע עֵ֣ץ פְּרִ֞י עֹ֤שֶׂה פְּרִי֙ לְמִינ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃ וַתּוֹצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֙רַע֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וְעֵ֧ץ עֹֽשֶׂה־פְּרִ֛י אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ לְמִינֵ֑הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃ וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שְׁלִישִֽׁי׃
And God said: “Let the earth sprout sprouts, vegetation, seed-plants that go to seed, fruit trees that make fruit, per their genus, that go to seed on the earth,” and it was. And the earth grew forth sprouts, vegetation, seed-plants that have seed in them per their genera, and fruit-making trees that have seed in them per their genera; and God saw it was good. And it was evening and morning, a third day.
Sheni — Genesis 1:29-2:3

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּה֩ נָתַ֨תִּי לָכֶ֜ם אֶת־כׇּל־עֵ֣שֶׂב ׀ זֹרֵ֣עַ זֶ֗רַע אֲשֶׁר֙ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י כׇל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאֶת־כׇּל־הָעֵ֛ץ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֥וֹ פְרִי־עֵ֖ץ זֹרֵ֣עַ זָ֑רַע לָכֶ֥ם יִֽהְיֶ֖ה לְאׇכְלָֽה׃ וּֽלְכׇל־חַיַּ֣ת הָ֠אָ֠רֶץ וּלְכׇל־ע֨וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם וּלְכֹ֣ל ׀ רוֹמֵ֣שׂ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ֙ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה אֶת־כׇּל־יֶ֥רֶק עֵ֖שֶׂב לְאׇכְלָ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃ וַיַּ֤רְא אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם הַשִּׁשִּֽׁי׃
And God said, “Hey, I’ve given you all vegetation that seeds its seed, that are on the face of all the earth, and all the trees that have in them tree fruits that seed their seed, they will be yours for food. And for all the animals of the earth and for all the birds of heaven and for all the creepy-crawlies on the earth that have living breath — all green vegetation for food,” and it was. And God saw all that God had done, and hey, it was very good; and it was evening and morning, the sixth day.

וַיְכֻלּ֛וּ הַשָּׁמַ֥יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ וְכׇל־צְבָאָֽם׃ וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹהִים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכׇּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה׃ וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכׇּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַעֲשֽׂוֹת׃
And the heaven and earth were finished, and all their multitudes. And God finished on the seventh day the work that God was doing, and rested on the seventh day from all the work God was doing. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it God rested from all the work that God had created to do.
Maftir — Genesis 2:4-2:9

אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם׃ וְכֹ֣ל ׀ שִׂ֣יחַ הַשָּׂדֶ֗ה טֶ֚רֶם יִֽהְיֶ֣ה בָאָ֔רֶץ וְכׇל־עֵ֥שֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה טֶ֣רֶם יִצְמָ֑ח כִּי֩ לֹ֨א הִמְטִ֜יר יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְאָדָ֣ם אַ֔יִן לַֽעֲבֹ֖ד אֶת־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃ וְאֵ֖ד יַֽעֲלֶ֣ה מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְהִשְׁקָ֖ה אֶֽת־כׇּל־פְּנֵ֥י הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃ וַיִּטַּ֞ע יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹהִ֛ים גַּן־בְּעֵ֖דֶן מִקֶּ֑דֶם וַיָּ֣שֶׂם שָׁ֔ם אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָצָֽר׃ וַיַּצְמַ֞ח יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה כׇּל־עֵ֛ץ נֶחְמָ֥ד לְמַרְאֶ֖ה וְט֣וֹב לְמַאֲכָ֑ל וְעֵ֤ץ הַֽחַיִּים֙ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַגָּ֔ן וְעֵ֕ץ הַדַּ֖עַת ט֥וֹב וָרָֽע׃
These are the origins of the heaven and earth in their creation: On the day the CAUSE God made earth and heaven, and every field shrub was yet to be on earth, and all field vegetation was yet to sprout, for the CAUSE God had not yet rained on the earth, and there was no human to work the land. And mist rose from the earth and watered all the face of the land. And the CAUSE God planted a garden in Eden to the east, and set there the human God had formed. And the CAUSE God made every nice-looking and good-tasting tree sprout from the ground, and the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowing good and evil.
Haftarah — Ezekiel 17:1-24

וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־יְהֹוָ֖ה אֵלַ֥י לֵאמֹֽר׃ בֶּן־אָדָ֕ם ח֥וּד חִידָ֖ה וּמְשֹׁ֣ל מָשָׁ֑ל אֶל־בֵּ֖ית יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ וְאָמַרְתָּ֞ כֹּה־אָמַ֣ר ׀ אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִ֗ה הַנֶּ֤שֶׁר הַגָּדוֹל֙ גְּד֤וֹל הַכְּנָפַ֙יִם֙ אֶ֣רֶךְ הָאֵ֔בֶר מָלֵא֙ הַנּוֹצָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־ל֖וֹ הָרִקְמָ֑ה בָּ֚א אֶל־הַלְּבָנ֔וֹן וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־צַמֶּ֥רֶת הָאָֽרֶז׃ אֵ֛ת רֹ֥אשׁ יְנִיקוֹתָ֖יו קָטָ֑ף וַיְבִיאֵ֙הוּ֙ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן בְּעִ֥יר רֹכְלִ֖ים שָׂמֽוֹ׃ וַיִּקַּח֙ מִזֶּ֣רַע הָאָ֔רֶץ וַֽיִּתְּנֵ֖הוּ בִּשְׂדֵה־זָ֑רַע קָ֚ח עַל־מַ֣יִם רַבִּ֔ים צַפְצָפָ֖ה שָׂמֽוֹ׃ וַיִּצְמַ֡ח וַיְהִי֩ לְגֶ֨פֶן סֹרַ֜חַת שִׁפְלַ֣ת קוֹמָ֗ה לִפְנ֤וֹת דָּֽלִיּוֹתָיו֙ אֵלָ֔יו וְשׇׁרָשָׁ֖יו תַּחְתָּ֣יו יִהְי֑וּ וַתְּהִ֣י לְגֶ֔פֶן וַתַּ֣עַשׂ בַּדִּ֔ים וַתְּשַׁלַּ֖ח פֹּרֹֽאות׃ וַיְהִ֤י נֶֽשֶׁר־אֶחָד֙ גָּד֔וֹל גְּד֥וֹל כְּנָפַ֖יִם וְרַב־נוֹצָ֑ה וְהִנֵּה֩ הַגֶּ֨פֶן הַזֹּ֜את כָּפְנָ֧ה שׇׁרָשֶׁ֣יהָ עָלָ֗יו וְדָֽלִיּוֹתָיו֙ שִׁלְחָה־לּ֔וֹ לְהַשְׁק֣וֹת אוֹתָ֔הּ מֵעֲרֻג֖וֹת מַטָּעָֽהּ׃ אֶל־שָׂ֥דֶה טּ֛וֹב אֶל־מַ֥יִם רַבִּ֖ים הִ֣יא שְׁתוּלָ֑ה לַעֲשׂ֤וֹת עָנָף֙ וְלָשֵׂ֣את פֶּ֔רִי לִהְי֖וֹת לְגֶ֥פֶן אַדָּֽרֶת׃ אֱמֹ֗ר כֹּ֥ה אָמַ֛ר אֲדֹנָ֥י יֱהֹוִ֖ה תִּצְלָ֑ח הֲלוֹא֩ אֶת־שׇׁרָשֶׁ֨יהָ יְנַתֵּ֜ק וְאֶת־פִּרְיָ֣הּ ׀ יְקוֹסֵ֣ס וְיָבֵ֗שׁ כׇּל־טַרְפֵּ֤י צִמְחָהּ֙ תִּיבָ֔שׁ וְלֹֽא־בִזְרֹ֤עַ גְּדוֹלָה֙ וּבְעַם־רָ֔ב לְמַשְׂא֥וֹת אוֹתָ֖הּ מִשׇּׁרָשֶֽׁיהָ׃ וְהִנֵּ֥ה שְׁתוּלָ֖ה הֲתִצְלָ֑ח הֲלֹא֩ כְגַ֨עַת בָּ֜הּ ר֤וּחַ הַקָּדִים֙ תִּיבַ֣שׁ יָבֹ֔שׁ עַל־עֲרֻגֹ֥ת צִמְחָ֖הּ תִּיבָֽשׁ׃
And the word of the CAUSE came to me and said: Human child, riddle a riddle and allege an allegory to the house of Israel. And say: “Thus said the Master CAUSE, the great eagle, great of wing and long of pinion, full-plumed with its motley color, came to the White Mountains and took the top of the cedar. The peak bough he plucked and carried it to the Phoenicians’ land, in the land of merchants placed it. And he took from the seed of the land and put it in a seed-field, planting upon many waters, setting a desert-willow. And it sprouted and became an overrunning vine, low to the ground, so its boughs would turn to him and its roots would be under him, and it became a vine and put out limbs and spread out shoots. And there was this one other great eagle, great of wing and full-plumed, and hey, the vine bent its roots up to him and sent its boughs to him, to water it more than its planting bed. By a good field by abundant water it was transplanted, to make branches and put out fruit and be a glorious vine!” Say: “This says the Master CAUSE: Will it thrive? Won’t it tear out its roots and strip off and wither its fruit? All its sprouting leaves will wither, and no great arm or vast people can remove it from its roots. And hey, if it is transplanted, will it thrive? Won’t the east wind strike it, and won’t it wither, wither, on its planting bed wither? “

וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־יְהֹוָ֖ה אֵלַ֥י לֵאמֹֽר׃ אֱמׇר־נָא֙ לְבֵ֣ית הַמֶּ֔רִי הֲלֹ֥א יְדַעְתֶּ֖ם מָה־אֵ֑לֶּה אֱמֹ֗ר הִנֵּה־בָ֨א מֶלֶךְ־בָּבֶ֤ל יְרוּשָׁלַ֙͏ִם֙ וַיִּקַּ֤ח אֶת־מַלְכָּהּ֙ וְאֶת־שָׂרֶ֔יהָ וַיָּבֵ֥א אוֹתָ֛ם אֵלָ֖יו בָּבֶֽלָה׃ וַיִּקַּח֙ מִזֶּ֣רַע הַמְּלוּכָ֔ה וַיִּכְרֹ֥ת אִתּ֖וֹ בְּרִ֑ית וַיָּבֵ֤א אֹתוֹ֙ בְּאָלָ֔ה וְאֶת־אֵילֵ֥י הָאָ֖רֶץ לָקָֽח׃ לִֽהְיוֹת֙ מַמְלָכָ֣ה שְׁפָלָ֔ה לְבִלְתִּ֖י הִתְנַשֵּׂ֑א לִשְׁמֹ֥ר אֶת־בְּרִית֖וֹ לְעׇמְדָֽהּ׃ וַיִּמְרׇד־בּ֗וֹ לִשְׁלֹ֤חַ מַלְאָכָיו֙ מִצְרַ֔יִם לָתֶת־ל֥וֹ סוּסִ֖ים וְעַם־רָ֑ב הֲיִצְלָ֤ח הֲיִמָּלֵט֙ הָעֹשֵׂ֣ה אֵ֔לֶּה וְהֵפֵ֥ר בְּרִ֖ית וְנִמְלָֽט׃ חַי־אָ֗נִי נְאֻם֮ אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִה֒ אִם־לֹ֗א בִּמְקוֹם֙ הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ הַמַּמְלִ֣יךְ אֹת֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֤ר בָּזָה֙ אֶת־אָ֣לָת֔וֹ וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר הֵפֵ֖ר אֶת־בְּרִית֑וֹ אִתּ֥וֹ בְתוֹךְ־בָּבֶ֖ל יָמֽוּת׃ וְלֹא֩ בְחַ֨יִל גָּד֜וֹל וּבְקָהָ֣ל רָ֗ב יַעֲשֶׂ֨ה אוֹת֤וֹ פַרְעֹה֙ בַּמִּלְחָמָ֔ה בִּשְׁפֹּ֥ךְ סֹלְלָ֖ה וּבִבְנ֣וֹת דָּיֵ֑ק לְהַכְרִ֖ית נְפָשׁ֥וֹת רַבּֽוֹת׃ וּבָזָ֥ה אָלָ֖ה לְהָפֵ֣ר בְּרִ֑ית וְהִנֵּ֨ה נָתַ֥ן יָד֛וֹ וְכׇל־אֵ֥לֶּה עָשָׂ֖ה לֹ֥א יִמָּלֵֽט׃
And the word of the CAUSE came to me and said: Please say to the rebel house: “Don’t you know what this is?” Say: “Hey, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and took her king and officers and took them with him Babylonwards. And he took from the royal line and cut a deal with him, and brought an oath upon him, and took away the nobles of the land, so it would be a humble kingdom rather than self-important, to guard the deal and endure. But he rebelled against him and sent messengers to Egypt to get him horses and a great army. Will he succeed? Will the one doing this escape, breaking his deal and escaping? As I live,” declares the Master CAUSE, “and see if I don’t! — In the place of the king who made him king, whose oath he disgraced and whose deal he broke, with him right in the middle of Babylon he will die. No great army or vast troop will Pharaoh muster for him in war, when mounds are poured and bulwarks built, to cut off many lives. He disgraced an oath and broke a deal, and hey, he gave his hand but did all this — he will not escape!”

לָכֵ֞ן כֹּה־אָמַ֨ר אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִה֮ חַי־אָ֒נִי֒ אִם־לֹ֗א אָֽלָתִי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּזָ֔ה וּבְרִיתִ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר הֵפִ֑יר וּנְתַתִּ֖יו בְּרֹאשֽׁוֹ׃ וּפָרַשְׂתִּ֤י עָלָיו֙ רִשְׁתִּ֔י וְנִתְפַּ֖שׂ בִּמְצוּדָתִ֑י וַהֲבִיאוֹתִ֣יהוּ בָבֶ֗לָה וְנִשְׁפַּטְתִּ֤י אִתּוֹ֙ שָׁ֔ם מַעֲל֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר מָעַל־בִּֽי׃ וְאֵ֨ת כׇּל־מִבְרָחָ֤ו בְּכׇל־אֲגַפָּיו֙ בַּחֶ֣רֶב יִפֹּ֔לוּ וְהַנִּשְׁאָרִ֖ים לְכׇל־ר֣וּחַ יִפָּרֵ֑שׂוּ וִידַעְתֶּ֕ם כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה דִּבַּֽרְתִּי׃
Therefore, thus says the Master CAUSE: “As I live, and see if I don’t! — My oath that he disgraced and My deal that he broke I will pay back on his head. And I will spread My net over him and he will be caught in My trap, and I will carry him Babylonwards and have him judged there for the acts he acted against Me. And all his fugitives in all his hordes will fall by the sword, and the remnants will scatter in all directions, and you will know that I the CAUSE spoke.”

כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִ֔ה וְלָקַ֣חְתִּי אָ֗נִי מִצַּמֶּ֧רֶת הָאֶ֛רֶז הָרָמָ֖ה וְנָתָ֑תִּי מֵרֹ֤אשׁ יֹֽנְקוֹתָיו֙ רַ֣ךְ אֶקְטֹ֔ף וְשָׁתַ֣לְתִּי אָ֔נִי עַ֥ל הַר־גָּבֹ֖הַּ וְתָלֽוּל׃ בְּהַ֨ר מְר֤וֹם יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶשְׁתֳּלֶ֔נּוּ וְנָשָׂ֤א עָנָף֙ וְעָ֣שָׂה פֶ֔רִי וְהָיָ֖ה לְאֶ֣רֶז אַדִּ֑יר וְשָׁכְנ֣וּ תַחְתָּ֗יו כֹּ֚ל צִפּ֣וֹר כׇּל־כָּנָ֔ף בְּצֵ֥ל דָּלִיּוֹתָ֖יו תִּשְׁכֹּֽנָּה׃ וְֽיָדְע֞וּ כׇּל־עֲצֵ֣י הַשָּׂדֶ֗ה כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ הִשְׁפַּ֣לְתִּי ׀ עֵ֣ץ גָּבֹ֗הַּ הִגְבַּ֙הְתִּי֙ עֵ֣ץ שָׁפָ֔ל הוֹבַ֙שְׁתִּי֙ עֵ֣ץ לָ֔ח וְהִפְרַ֖חְתִּי עֵ֣ץ יָבֵ֑שׁ אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה דִּבַּ֥רְתִּי וְעָשִֽׂיתִי׃
Thus says the Master CAUSE: “And I will take from the high top of the cedar, and from the top pluck a tender bough, and transplant it on a tall towering mountain. In the high heights of Israel I will transplant it, and it will bring forth branches and make fruit, and become a glorious cedar, and every winged bird will shelter under it, sheltering in the shadow of its boughs. And all the trees of the field will know that I the CAUSE brought low the high tree, brought high the low tree, withered the fresh tree and freshened the withered tree; I the CAUSE have spoken and will do so.”

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