Jewish: Tu B’Shvat celebrates trees, agricultural bounty

A family plants a tree in Israel. Photo in public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.SUNSET TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7: Tu Bishvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, falls on the 15th day of the month of Shevat. This year, it begins on Tuesday evening, February 7.

Joe Lewis—a Jewish scholar and the creator of a series of Singlish books for easily enjoying Hebrew traditions—wrote today’s story:

The Jewish calendar has four New Years, and in ancient times, this early springtime date was the beginning of the agricultural year when farmers would mark the age of their trees and know if a tree was old enough for its fruit to be harvested and tithed (see Leviticus 19:23-25). After 2,000 years of exile, the festival took on new meaning with the establishment of the State of Israel: Once again, Jewish people were farmers, and this holiday became a time to celebrate the fruits of Israel (Deuteronomy 8:8) and to plant trees through donations to the Jewish National Fund.

During our long exile, Kabbalists developed the tradition of holding a festive meal with prescribed rituals—a “seder” meal akin to the Passover seder—reflecting on the relationship between God, humanity, and the agricultural products that sustain us.

Today, the Tu Bishvat seder has become a popular custom, and many synagogues hold one; it’s an opportunity to eat fruits, nuts and other produce of Israel; to consider the miraculous process by which we sustain our own lives by eating agricultural products; and to explore our responsibility to sustainable agriculture and the planet that feeds us.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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