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Tu B'Shevat

Celebrate The Land!

Have you ever wished a tree Happy New Year?

The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat will give you the chance.  This day is known as Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for Trees. In 2012 this day falls on February 8th.
Why do trees need a New Year?

The Torah states in Leviticus 19:23-25 that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for G-d, and after that, you can eat the fruit. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B'Shevat no matter when during the year the tree was planted. The New Year for Trees tells us when it is okay to eat G-d's gift from the tree. In Biblical times this was also important to know because of the giving of tithes of the first fruits. The Israelites needed to know if a tree's fruit should be counted for tithes as written in Deuteronomy 14:28-29.
Today, Israel's orchards still abide by this rule. When new trees are planted the fruit is not sold until the fifth year. This makes for strong healthy trees that will bear lots of fruit. The trees are able to establish their roots deep in the soil and flourish for future generations.  

Why isn't the New Year for Trees celebrated at the same time as the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShannah? 

This has to do with the rainy season in Israel, which commences during late autumn. It can take months for enough rain to saturate the earth and nurture the trees so theycan produce fruit. Tu B'Shevat occurs at the time in the year when a tree is ready to produce that year's first fruits.
Keep in mind that Rosh HaShannah is not the beginning point for everything in Jewish tradition. The Jewish calendar actually has four different New Years: Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the new year for years when the year number is increased, Shevat 15 is the new year for trees which, as we just learned, determines when fruits can be eaten, Nissan 1 is the new year for the counting the reigns of kings and months on the calendar, and Elul 1 is the new year for the tithing of animals, however this is no longer observed.
How is the New Year for trees honored today?
Tu B'Shevat is a celebration of nature and a fun time for families in Israel. It is treated as the Israeli Arbor Day. Each year on Tu B'Shevat communities set aside a place for new trees to be planted. Families arrive to work together to plant a new tree for the Land of Israel. It is a fun-filled family activity. Future generations will cherish the contributions their relatives gave to nature and to Israel.

 After working in the soil of the Holy Land planting trees, families often enjoy a snack of fruits and nuts. In particular, foods that are mentioned in the Bible and come from trees are eaten during this holiday: dates, figs, pomegranates, olives, and almonds.
On Tu Bishvat we rejoice in the strength of the tree and of the family. We express our joy and thankfulness for the mystery and grandeur of G-d's nature. We renew and recognize our commitment to G-d's land, Eretz Yisra'el, and to our dear children and future generations.

How can this day reflect on my own spiritual path?
As we reflect on Tu B'Shevat we realize that this occasion can mirror our own relationship with G-d. We are also nurtured by deep roots, as far back as Abraham and Sarah. We reach upwards to heaven while standing firmly on the ground. When we cultivate our relationship with the Almighty, we produce fruits that benefit the world.

So where ever you are in the world on this day, think of what you can do to nurture G-d's Earth as well as your relationship with Him... and have some delicious fruit!

To Plant a Tree click here.

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