Tu Bishvat – New Year for the Trees

Rosh Hashanah is what people normally think of when they call to mind the Jewish New Year. In truth, however, there are four Jewish new years, and Rosh Hashanah is the one that marks the beginning of a new calendar year. There is also a new year for trees. This holiday is called Tu Bishvat. It normally occurs in January or in early February. This is not a major Jewish holiday, but it is a fascinating one, nonetheless, and an essential for anyone interested in fully understanding Jewish customs and culture. In this article, you will learn about the history of this New Year for the trees and also how this holiday is celebrated.

The reason there must be a new year for trees is because of a belief originally written in the Torah that fruit that grows from a tree in the first three years of a tree’s life cannot be consumed. Fruit in the fourth year of the tree’s life is for G-d. After that, people may consume the fruit. A tree has aged one year each Tu Bishvat. Therefore, after a tree has seen four new years, its fruit may then be eaten. Most Jews do not follow this law anymore, but it is the root of the custom. For more about the history of Tu Bishvat and the meaning of the word, search online or ask a local rabbi.

It is tradition on Tu Bishvat to eat a new piece of fruit. There are also seven foods that were said to be abundant in Israel that can be enjoyed as part of a holiday custom. The seven foods are grapes, figs, wheat, barley, pomegranates, dates, and olives. To celebrate this holiday in a modern take on the Jewish tradition, find some recipes that include these foods and make a kosher treat.

It is also a great idea to plant trees on Tu Bishvat. This is not only a great way to celebrate this little known Jewish holiday, but a fun way to care for the environment. You might even find Jewish students collecting money on this holiday to send to Israel so that trees may be planted there. While Tu Bishvat is not as well known or as often celebrated as some other Jewish holidays, such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, it is a neat tradition that can easily be practiced with an environmental emphasis.

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