The Origins of Tu B’Shvat
Happy Tu B’Shvat! This is the New Year of the trees, the birthday of the Trees, Jewish Earth Day, Eco-Jew Holiday, basically a time to honor all things growing and nourishing.
Once upon a time this date “T U b’Shvat” – the 15th of the Hebrew month Shvat – was more about agricultural taxation. Biblical law carefully protected a tree from being harvested before it was ready. Tu B’Shvat calculated the age of the trees and marked the yearly date that a tree’s produce could be harvested. Historians tell the story of a Springtime folk festival in Israel when the Priests would take one tenth of the fruit trees’ crops and send them to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Today we can find a number of verses throughout the Tanach that are linked to Tu B’Shvat and that we use to teach about the Jewish perspective on the environment.
Back in the day
Back in the 16th century that is, a group of Jewish mystics lived in the holy city of Tzfat in Israel. Over many a day and night they discussed and explored how to relate to God. On the holiday of Tu B’Shvat they wondered how best to honor the New Year of the trees. So they created a special Seder for Tu B’Shvat. (You may remember what a Seder is from Passover.) To this day, we gather together around a table with 4 questions, 4 cups of juice, 3 sets of amazing fruits, plenty of music and great discussion.
D.I.Y. Tu B’Shvat Seder It’s a lot of fun, very tasty and an amazing way to rediscover what we have in common with nature. Click here for more resources.
Did you know that the Torah is called a “Tree of Life?” Why do you think that is? If you have ideas, I’d love to hear about them. Send them along to TreeOfLife@shirlala.com By the way, the Torah is also compared to a fig tree. You can read more about it in the Babylonian Talmud or click here for more information!
Trees celebrate their birthday in the winter? Tu B’Shvat usually falls in the wintertime where we live. But in Israel where the holiday was invented, it’s springtime! And we all know what happens in the spring. Blossoms and new leaves and new crops. So we celebrate an agricultural New Year on this day.
Did you know that the name Tu B’Shvat comes from it’s date on the Hebrew calendar? Gematria is a neat system that gives each of the letters of the alef-bet a numerical value. Can you guess what the TU in Tu B’Shvat stands for?