Tu B’Shvat, the “New Year of the Trees” or the “Jewish Earth Day” is celebrated on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shavat. Did you know that Tu B’Shvat is not mentioned in the Torah? According to scholars, the holiday was originally an agricultural festival celebrating the beginning of spring in Israel. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the exile that followed, many Jews felt a need to bind themselves symbolically to their former homeland. Tu B’Shvat served in part to ﬁll that spiritual need. As it was no longer possible to bring tithes to the Temple, Jews used this time each year to eat a variety of fruits and nuts that could be obtained from Palestine. The practice, a sort of physical association with the land continued for many centuries.
The sixteenth and seventeenth century Kabbalists of Palestine elaborated on the exilic customs, creating a ritual for Tu B’Shvat somewhat similar to the Passover Seder. On Erev Tu B’Shvat they would gather in their homes for a ﬁfteen course meal, each course being one of the foods associated with the land of Israel. Between courses, they would read from an anthology called P’ri Eitz Hadar (Citrus Fruit), a compilation of passages on trees drawn from the Talmud and the mystical Zohar. Today in modern Israel, Tu B’Shvat has become a national holiday, a tree planting festival for both Israelis and Jews throughout the world.
It is customary to eat as many different fruits as possible on Tu B’Shavt and to try a new fruit that you have never eaten or one that has not yet been eaten by you during the current season. Please join us for this joyous Holiday welcoming the coming of Spring in Israel!