15th of the month of Shevat
New Year for Trees
Tu B’Shevat is one of four Jewish “New Years.” The holiday is connected to the practice of tithing and the establishment of the “legal” age of a tree in order to determine when the fruit should be tithed and when one could eat the produce.
“And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as forbidden; three years shall it be as forbidden unto you; it shall not be eaten. And in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy, for giving praise unto the LORD. But in the fifth year may ye eat of the fruit thereof...” (Leviticus 19:23-25)
Tu B’Shevat (the word Tu is “15” written in Hebrew “טו”) falls near the beginning of spring after the bulk of the winter rains have fallen and trees are in bud with new growth and fertility.
The holiday is celebrated is different ways.
* Many eat fruit of the land, especially that of the “seven species” grown in Israel.
* New year for trees is also a time to focus on planting trees or raising money to plant trees, especially in Israel.
* In the 17th Century the Kaballists of Safed established a special seder which focused on the esoteric meaning to be found in the biblical statement, “Man is like the tree in the field” (Deut. 20:19). The practice spread among Sephardim and later to Ashkenazim who may celebrate a special seder modelled on the Passover seder on Tu B’Shevat.
Tu B’Shevat is not mentioned in the Torah but is found in the Mishnah in the context of establishing the correct date.
“There are four ‘new year’ days... the First of Shevat is the new year for trees, according to the ruling of Beit Shammai; Beit Hillel, says, the fifteenth of that month.” (Mishnah. Rosh Hashanah 1:1)