Trees in Jew­ish Tra­di­tions

Trees have been giv­en a key role in Jew­ish tra­di­tions and lit­er­a­ture. Recog­nis­ing its im­por­tance in the ex­is­tence of life, trees have been both men­tioned in holy texts and cel­e­brat­ed for its age and en­durance.

 

Tu B’Shevat Jewish Trees Ketubah

 

Tu B’Shevat

The Jew­ish hol­i­day Tu B’Shevat falls on the 15th of the He­brew month of She­vatand is known as the be­gin­ning of the New Year for Trees. The oc­ca­sion marks the age of trees for tithing. Ac­cord­ing to  Lev 19:23–25, dur­ing the first three years of a tree, it’s fruit is not be eat­en; the fourth year’s fruit is for God. Af­ter the fourth year is com­plete, you are al­lowed to eat the fruit.

Peo­ple cel­e­brate the Tu B’Shevat  by eat­ing fruits, with a high­er pref­er­ence for fruit from trees from Is­rael: olives, dates, grapes, figs and pome­gran­ates.

Holy ref­er­ences

The sto­ry of cre­ation be­gins with the birth of trees. As men­tioned in Gen­e­sis 1:11–12,

And God said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yield­ing seed, and fruit-tree bear­ing fruit af­ter its kind, where­in is the seed there­of, up­on the earth.’ And it was so

And the earth brought forth grass, herb yield­ing seed af­ter its kind, and tree bear­ing fruit, where­in is the seed there­of, af­ter its kind; and God saw that it was good.”

The Torah pro­hibits the de­struc­tion of trees, es­pe­cial­ly fruit trees, even in war. Ac­cord­ing to Deuteron­o­my 20:19–20,

When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fight­ing against it to cap­ture it, do not de­stroy its trees by putting an ax to them, be­cause you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees peo­ple, that you should be­siege them?

How­ev­er, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works un­til the city at war with you falls.