Tu Bishvat ( Tu B’Shvat ) (ט”ו בשבט)
The fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shvat is called “Tu B’Shvat”. It denotes the “New Year of the Trees”, traditionally the day on which the trees are judged for the coming year, just the same as for humans on Rosh Hashanah.
The first mention of this festival appears in the Mishna, where there is a difference of opinion between the schools of Hillel and Shamai as to the correct date for the New Year for Trees. The opinion of Hillel was that the fifteenth of Shvat was suitable. The school of Shamai maintained that the correct date was the first day of Shvat. Custom follows the school of Hillel.
On this day, the trees started benefiting from the new rains, and so taking tithes from their fruits for the following year were calculated as starting at this date.
In addition to the religious aspect of adhering to the commandments relating to the land, the festival of Tu B’Shvat is a celebration which demonstrates the Jewish people’s love of Israel and its fruits.
On this day, the Jews set festive tables with fruits of the seven species, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, dates, pomegranates and olives, as expressed in the verse;
“For the Lord G-d will lead you into the good land, a land flowing with waters… A land of wheat and barley and vine, of fig and pomegranate, the land of the olive and honey”.
Dvarim 8; 7-8.
These seven species became the symbol of the land of Israel, as their first fruits were once brought as an offering to the priests in the temple.
The State of Israel marks this holiday as one of tree-planting ceremonies, symbolizing an era of renewal as Jews started returning to the land of their forefathers. When the Jews were in exile, the beautiful forests of the Land of Israel were cut down and the soil dried out. As the first Zionists started returning to Israel, they considered it a sacred duty to afforest the country. They planted eucalyptus trees in the mosquito infested swamps, cleared away stones, and above all, planted trees.
Each Tu B’Shvat, school students country-wide attends tree planting ceremonies.
The Knesset’s first session was on that date, therefore the Knesset celebrates its own birthday on the fifteenth of Shvat.