Tu B'Shvat - Jewish New Year for Trees
Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for trees symbolizes our appreciation not only for the beauty and utility of trees, but also, for what they symbolize - growth and renewal.
Tu B'Shvat, as its name suggests, is celebrated on the 15th of the Hebrew month, Shvat. This is a day dedicated to the praises of the Land of Israel, as this is the season when the land begins to overflow with the new harvest and many fruits.
Tu B'Shvat is a time when we focus on our ecological responsibilities. Our very first task assigned to us by G-d, was (and is) to care for the environment.
"G-d took man and put him into the garden [Garden of Eden] to work it and guard it." (Genesis, 1:15).
Jewish texts and traditions stress the intimate connection between humanity and its relationship to nature. In particular, the planting and care taking of trees has always been encouraged, both for the benefit of present and future generations.
"The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to the people of Israel: Even though you will find the land bountiful, do not decide to sit and not sow. Rather, be diligent in sowing. Just as you found planting done by others when you arrived, so are you to plant for future generations. Lest an old man say, "I am old now and how many years do I have ahead of me? Why am I toiling so hard for the benefit of others?' For this reason, man should not be lazy in sowing. Just as he found growth, so shall he continue the chain of life for the future." (Midrash Tanchuma, Kedoshim).
Originally, Israel was covered with forests. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE), these ancient forests were destroyed while the Jews were in exile. The chalutzim (early Jewish pioneers in Palestine during the 19th century) worked tirelessly to revive the land, draining malaria-ridden swamps and planting seedlings.
Both the religious and the secular in Israel began to recognize Tu B'Shvat as the natural time to launch tree-planting events. The first Tu B'Shvat Tree Planting Ceremony took place in a moshavah, Yisud Hama'alah, in 1884. Hundreds of trees, including 700 etrog (citron) trees, were planted. In 1908, Tu B'Shvat was established as the official Tree Planting Holiday by the Teachers' Union. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, reforestation has been handled by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which has become one of the central instruments of the Zionist movement in acquiring land for settlement and forestation.
The source for this minor festival appears in the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 1:1). The Mishnah says: "There are four New Year days:
Tu B'Shvat customs
Tu B'Shvat is commonly celebrated in the following ways:The planting of trees. This is a very common practice in Israel, where thousands of children flock to forests to dig holes and pack dirt around tender seedlings and saplings.
Also on the WUJS site:
Tu B'Shvat Activities
More Tu B'Shvat Resources
This year's dates for Tu B'Shvat can be found in the WUJS Year Mapper