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Tu B'Shevat:

Tu B'Shevat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, is a holiday also known as the New Year for Trees. The word "Tu" is not really a word; it is the number 15 in Hebrew, as if you were to call the Fourth of July "Iv July" (IV being 4 in Roman numerals).

As mentioned in Rosh Hashanah, Judaism has several different "new years." This is not as strange a concept as it sounds at first blush; in America, we have the calendar year (January-December), the school year (September-June), and many businesses have fiscal years. It's basically the same idea with the various Jewish new years.

Tu B'Shevat is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. See Lev. 19:23-25, which states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year's fruit is for G-d, and after that, you can eat the fruit. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B'Shevat, so if you planted a tree on Shevat 14, it begins its second year the next day, but if you plant a tree two days later, on Shevat 16, it does not reach its second year until the next Tu B'Shevat.

Tu B'Shevat is not mentioned in the Torah. The Mishnah states that it is the new year for trees, and there is a dispute as to the proper date for the holiday (Beit Shammai said the proper day was the first of Shevat; Beit Hillel said the proper day was the 15th of Shevat. As usual, we follow Beit Hillel.

 

Customs

There are few customs or observances related to this holiday. One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day, or to eat from the Seven Species (shivat haminim) described in the Bible as being abundant in the land of Israel. The Shivat Haminim are: wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (honey) (Deut. 8:8). Some people plant trees on this day.

In the 16th century, kabbalists, developed a seder ritual conceptually similar to the Pesach (Passover) seder, discussing the spiritual significance of fruits and of the shivat haminim. This custom spread primarily in Sephardic communities, but in recent years it has been getting more attention among Ashkenazim. Aish.com provides a traditional text for this seder.

 

List of Dates

Tu B'Shevat will occur on the following days of the secular calendar:

Jewish Year 5775: sunset February 3, 2015 - nightfall February 4, 2015

Jewish Year 5776: sunset January 24, 2016 - nightfall January 25, 2016

Jewish Year 5777: sunset February 10, 2017 - nightfall February 11, 2017

Jewish Year 5778: sunset January 30, 2018 - nightfall January 31, 2018

Jewish Year 5779: sunset January 20, 2019 - nightfall January 21, 2019

Last updated on: 12/16/2017
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