Tu B’Shevat: the “new year” for trees
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar—celebrated this year on Wednesday, February 4, 2015—is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land ofIsrael emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.
Legally, the “new year” for trees relates to the various tithes that are separated from produce grown in the Holy Land. These tithes differ from year to year in the seven-year shemittahcycle; the point at which a budding fruit is considered to belong to the next year of the cycle is the 15th of Shevat.
We mark the day of Tu B’Shevat by eating fruit, particularly from the kinds that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. On this day we remember that “man is a tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20:19), and reflect on the lessons we can derive from our botanical analogue.