What is Tu B’Shevat? The New Year for Trees

Tu B’Shevat is the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat – Tu is the Hebrew number for 15. The holiday is commonly known as the ‘New Year for Trees.’ This year  it was celebrated on Monday, January 25, 2016; the date varies each year. In this season, trees in their early blooming days begin their fruit-bearing cycle in the Land of Israel and emerge from their winter sleep.

Tu B’Shevat serves a specific purpose of marking the new year for calculating the age of trees for tithing. This is reference to Leviticus 19:23-25:

23 “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden.[a] For three years you are to consider it forbidden[b]; it must not be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God.”

According to the passage, fruit is not to be eaten from fruit trees in its first three years. Nor in the fourth year, which is holy and reserved for God. In the fifth year, the fruit from the trees can be eaten. Each year is marked by the passing of the Tu B’Shevat.

The holiday is celebrated by eating fruit. Jews particularly seek to eat fruits that have been mentioned in the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land. They eat from the Seven Species (shivat haminim) which include wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Some Jews also plant new trees on Tu B’Shevat.


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