Tu B’Shevat

Happy Tu B’Shevat

Tu B’Shevat is a holiday we have been celebrating for centuries. Tu B’Shevat actually means “the 15th of (the month of) Shevat” the TU is the number 15 just like some people do with Roman numerals XV, but in Hebrew. So the date of the celebration always falls on the 15th of Shevat.

This holiday is the new year for the trees.  Just like counting rings inside a tree tells you the age, Jews pretty much know how old the trees they plant are. The date, 15th of Shevat, is the birthday of the trees, regardless of when they were planted and how old they were before they were taken out of the pot. What counts is when they were put in the ground. If the tree was put in the ground on the 16th of Shevat, its birthday will be a year later on the 15th of Shevat.  However, if the tree was planted on the 14th of Shevat, it will be considered to be a year old the next day. After all, with trees, and how long they can get to live, it really doesn’t matter.

There are several customs for this holiday.  The first and most important one is to try and plant one or more trees on this day, thus fulfilling the obligation of Tikkun Olam (fixing up the world). You can also donate money and have trees planted in Israel in honor or memory of somebody you know, fulfilling the obligation of Tzedakah (Charity) as well.

Next, there is the admonition to eat new fruits, preferably the type you have never had before, or those that are in season, or eat of the seven species (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and date) mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8.  Special prayers are said for the first fruits you eat.

And as of the 16th Century, we have a Seder (big fancy dinner, much like during Pesach), which took flight within the Sephardic communities more than any others.