Tu B’Shvat literally means, “the 15th of the month of Sh’vat” and is also known as the “New Year for the Trees”. It is the date decided upon by Jewish sages as the day to calculate the age of trees for the purpose of tithing. The practice of tithing the fruits of trees is detailed in Leviticus 19:23-25. However, scholars have also discovered that in ancient Israel, it was also a day for the planting of trees especially “marriage trees.” It was customary for parents who had been blessed with children during the preceding year to plant a tree on Tu B’Shvat in honor of the baby. Cedars (Heb. Erez – ארץ) were planted for boys, cypress trees (Heb. Bah-rosh – ברוש ) for girls. When the children grew up and married, the trees were cut down and used as part of the chuppah (marriage canopy).
After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, it was no longer possible to bring the tithes from the fruit trees to the Temple. Thus began the era of the Diaspora (which is a Greek word), to use the Hebrew term – Galut – גלות . At Tu B’Shvat each year, Jews began a custom of eating what is known as the Seven Species of fruit (Shivat Haminim in Hebrew). They are first mentioned in the T’nakh in Deuteronomy 8:8, speaking of the land of Israel: “A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey.” [Note: the ‘honey’ refers to date palm honey and thus, dates being one of the Seven Species.]
- Wheat – חִטָּה֙ (chitah)
- Barley – שְׂעֹרָ֔ה (se’orah)
- Grapes – גֶ֥פֶן (gefen)
- Figs – תְאֵנָ֖ה (te’enah)
- Pomegranates – רִמּ֑וֹן (rimon)
- Olives – אֶֽרֶץ־זֵ֥ית (zayit)
- Dates – דְבָֽשׁ (d’vash)
Later this practice of eating these fruits on Tu B’Shvat grew into a seder, similar in form to Passover, but using the fruits and nuts of the Seven Species. Today the Tu B’Shvat seder is increasing in popularity.
In the late 1800’s, God was raising up many people who would help the state of Israel to be established. In 1884, German mathematician and Zionist Hermann Schapira proposed an agency which became known as the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – and was officially founded in 1901 by Theodore Herzl. Before the founding of the state of Israel, the JNF was characterised by small “blue boxes” that every Jewish household in America used to collect money to help purchase the land of Israel. Very often the very leftist news media leaves out the facts so I will share them with you! During the past 100 plus years, the JNF has purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Israel for Jewish settlements. The land of Israel actually belongs two-fold to the Jewish people! It was given by God Himself, and then the JNF purchased it with the hard earned money of the Jewish people! It is not ‘occupied territory’ no more than South Carolina is ‘occupied territory’ in the USA!
Tu B’Shvat is always celebrated in late winter – not spring. The Psalmist wrote about the tree that brings forth fruit, “in his season.” A fruit tree does not have fruit year-round, but only when it is the season for fruit! Trees do not rest each night like people, but winter time is when trees rest. In the spring, they wake up! Our lives pass through seasons as well. If we find ourselves in the ‘winter time’, we must not worry, but be patient and wait on the Lord. God will allow us to bear fruit when it is our season. I want the kind of prosperity that the writer of Psalm 1 wrote about. It does not come from money, but from meditating on the Word of God.
It is also an important tradition to plant a tree in Israel in honour of someone or in memory of someone through the JNF. The first time that I visited Israel, I planted trees in honour of my parents, of a dear friend and prayer warrior and of my Hebrew teacher. Thousands upon thousands of trees are planted in Israel by the JNF on Tu B’Shvat. If you get to visit Israel, be sure to honour a loved one by planting a tree in their honour.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.“