Tu B'svhat 2013, New Year for Trees, Jewish Arbor Day

Saturday, January 26, 2013

almond blossoms in shvat

Tu B'shvat: The 15th Day of the Month of Shvat

Literally, Tu B'shvat means the 15th of Shvat. Shvat is the name of the 10th month of the Hebrew calendar (the first month being Nissan in the spring). The Hebrew dates are given by the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters, and 15 is written as "tet vav", which can be pronounced"Tu" (as in "too").

Tu B'shvat is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Rosh Hashanah 1a. It is explained that Tu B'shvat is the New Year for trees, specifically for tithing. The tithes are calculated according to the year, and in the case of tithing produce from trees, the day used for reckoning the "new year" is 15 Shvat. Other religious agricultural obligations regarding trees are also reckoned according to Tu B'shvat, such as the commandment of "Orlah", leaving the fruits of the tree for three years.

Customs of Tu B'shvat

This New Year of trees is not accompanied by a cessation of labor or specified feasting, nor is it mentioned specially in the prayers of the day. In order to make the day special and celebratory, certain supplicatory prayers are omitted.

It is customary to eat the fruits associated with the Land of Israel (dates, olives, figs, and pomegranates), and to partake of some new fruit not eaten yet that year, if available. The fruits associated with the Land of Israel are enumerated in Deuteronomy 8:8: "...a land of wheat and barley and (grape) vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and (date) honey" (Deut. 8:8).

Another long standing custom is to pray at this time for an especially beautiful etrog (citron) for the next holiday of Sukkot.

In other words, you have almost total flexibility and creativity in celebrating this holiday! Many people have adopted a "Tu B'shvat Seder" for the evening of Tu B'shvat, based upon the writings of the students of the Arizal in the book "Pri Aitz Hadar". The holiday is celebrated with a "seder" analogous to the Passover night seder, and indeed the night marks the beginning of a 60 day period until Passover. You can find a step by step explanation of how to perform this Tu B'shvat seder on Aish.com's Tu B'shvat Seder page. That one has a version which is printable from one page, which is very helpful.

Tu B'shvat cards and gifts

Jewishbyte.com is proud to present greeting cards and gifts featuring photos of plants from the Land of Israel. Treat your friends and family to a gift at the New Year of trees. We have aprons, mugs, tote bags, stickers, baby bibs, and more. The photos feature fig trees, grape clusters, olive trees, pomegranate trees, prickly pears (sabras), almond tree blossoms, and spring wheat.

You're sure to find a wonderful gift for Tu B'shvat in the Jewishbyte.com Tu B'shvat store!

tu b'shvat cards and gifts
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