Tu B'Shevat

The main festival which takes place during this Hebrew month is dated on the 15th of Shevat, which is known as Tu B'shevat, the festival of the new year for trees (Mishna Rosh Hashana 2).

The land of Israel was famous for 7 different species; Wheat, Barley, Grapes, Figs, Pomegranates, Olives and also Dates (Devarim 8:8). It is customary during this day to say blessings on the most famous fruits and species that originate from the land of Israel. Many ‘Bracha’ parties take place on this day, to celebrate this wonderful festival of the New Year for Trees.

Tu B'Shevat is also the New Year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. The Torah states that fruit from trees which were grown in the land of Israel cannot be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for G-d, and after that, the fruit may be eaten (Vayikra 19: 23/25).

Each tree is considered to have aged one year on the date of Tu B'Shevat (15th Shevat), no matter at what time in the year it was planted. We in fact learn these laws in the book of Devarim in the reading of parshah Re’ah. The parshah talks about the rewards for observing the laws within regards to tithes (Devarim 14:28/29).

This is the season in that the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter phase and begin a new fruit budding cycle.

In Israel, it is customary for the Jews to plant trees on Tu B'Shevat. Outside of Israel, many Jews collect funds for planting trees in Israel.

Many Jews also make a special Seder on Tu B’Shevat which is similar to the Pesach Seder. This tradition started with Jewish mystics but now is becoming more prevalent among Jews who are interested in environmental initiatives.

Many people pray on this day for a beautiful, unblemished etrog, a symbolic of righteous Jews, in order to aesthetically perform the mitzvah as best as possible when the time of Sukkot comes.

On Tu B'Shevat, just the beginning of springtime, fruit, which is the tree's potential, is yet to be seen. However, we rejoice in our faith that in a few weeks' time the tree will bear fruit. From this we learn the lesson that in life, things may not appear to go our way sometimes or even all the time, but if we have true faith, Hashem has his plan and does everything for the best in the long run!!

This Dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of Shlomo Yehuda ben David.