What Is Tu Bishvat?
The holiday of Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish Holiday that celebrates the New Year of the Trees. Tu Bishvat is one of four New Years mentioned in the Mishnah, the oral Torah of the Jewish faith. Oddly, the holiday of Tu Bishvat is not mentioned in the Torah itself. Tu Bishvat is celebrated in the Hebrew month of Shevat that occurs usually in late January or early February. In 2010, Tu Bishvat falls on January 29. The term Tu Bishvat comes from the Hebrew date of the holiday as it falls on the 15th of Shevat. Tu stands for 15 in Hebrew numerals and Bishvat is stands for the Hebrew month of Shevat.
Significance of Tu Bishvat
Tu Bishvat occurs during the season with which the early blooming trees in Israel begin to bloom. Tu Bishvat signifies the point where a budding fruit tree is considered to belong to the next year. This is significant because according to Jewish law as proscribed in the Torah, the fruit from trees cannot be eaten during the first three years of a tree’s life and during the fourth year all of the fruit yielded by the tree belongs to God. Only after the fourth year can the fruit of the tree be eaten.
Customs of Tu Bishvat
Even though Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish holiday, many customs are still celebrated to bring in the New Year of the Trees. The most important of the customs are the planting of trees and the eating of dried fruit and nuts, including figs, dates, raisins, and almonds.
As Tu Bishvat celebrates the fruit taken from trees, one of the most common customs is the planting of trees. On Tu Bishvat, over a million Israelis take part in the tree planting activities and those of Jewish faith around the world also take part in tree planting activities. In keeping with the idea of growth, many of Israel’s major institutions choose Tu Bishvat as their day of inauguration.
Another custom observed on Tu Bishvat is to eat fruits and nuts from the seven types of fruits mentioned in the Torah. These include wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey. It is tradition to eat a new fruit every year. Generally, these foods are eaten during a Tu Bishvat Seder, where the Shehecheyanu blessing, a blessing recited on joyous occasions thanking God for “sustaining us and enabling us to reach this point.” Because Tu Bishvat is a joyous occasion, the Tachanun sections of the Seder prayer that petition for forgiveness are omitted.
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