In Jewish tradition, when do we celebrate conception?
This question is answered by the Jewish New Year for trees: Tu b’Shvat.
Tonight (Sunday January 24) starts the Jewish New Year for Trees. It is commonly referred to as Tu b’Shvat which simply means the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat.
It almost was known as Echad b’Shvat, the first of Shvat.
2500 years ago, two of our great sages, Shammai and Hillel, argued over when the new year for trees should be.
In our sacred text called the Talmud, Rashi, a sage from 1000 years ago explained that what they were arguing over was when we celebrate conception.
To summarize the debate: In Israel, Shvat is the middle month of winter and most of the rain has fallen by the first of Shvat. Nobody questions this, or the analogy that the rain is like sperm coming down and impregnating mother earth.
Since most of the rain has fallen by the first, everyone agrees that the earth has conceived by then.
Shammai believed that we should not wait to celebrate conception and so the new year for trees should be on the first.
Hillel disagreed with him. He believed that we should wait until we could see some outward appearance of conception, and then celebrate.
One of the interesting things about the Jewish tradition is that it can hold multiple truths at the same time, even when they contradict. Hence both opinions are true and accurate.
If it was possible, we would celebrate conception both when it occurred and when it was first noticeable.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where a second celebration of a wondrous event is like a balloon with all of the air let out of it.
So, we have to make a decision as to which day to celebrate. 2000 years ago, our sages decided to celebrate worldly conception on the 15th of Shvat, on Tu b’Shvat. It makes sense to celebrate global conception on a communal level.
But what about on a personal level?
When will you celebrate conception, when it happens or when it starts to show? Please leave your answer below and keep in mind this does not have to be conceiving of just a child. It could also be the conceiving of an idea or a dream or a goal or a project, or even watering a single seed that germinates.
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