Known as the Jewish New Year for Trees, Tu B’Shevat is one of a number of Jewish new year festivals. As tu is a Hebrew word meaning ‘15’ and Shevat is the name for the fifth month in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shevat literally means ‘fifteenth day of Shevat’. The festival begins at sunset on the 14th day of Shevat and continues until nightfall on the fifteenth
On Tu B’Shevat Jews pay homage to trees, especially those which bear fruit and provide them with food. Regardless of the time of year a tree is planted or sown, it is considered to have aged exactly one year on Tu B’Shevat and its birthday is celebrated on this day every year.
The Jews’ respect for trees can be best understood through the following passage in Leviticus.
When you come to the land and you plant any tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden and not eaten. In the fourth year, all of its fruit shall be sanctified to praise the L-RD. In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most common Jewish Tu B’Shevat customs is the planting of new trees in gardens and public spaces. Many Jews also celebrate the day by eating a new type of fruit for the first time that year. Others observe Tu B’Shevat by eating one of the Shivat Haminim (Seven Species) of fruit and grains, proclaimed by the Hebrew Bible as being resplendent in the holy land of Israel. The seven species included in the Shivat Haminim are barley, dates, figs, grapes, olives, pomegranate and wheat.
For more information about Tu B’Shevat visit www.jewfaq.org/m/holiday8.htm