Tu Bishvat

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Tu Bishvat
Urueña almendro2 lou.jpg
Almond tree in blossom on Tu Bishvat
Official name Hebrew: ט״ו בשבט
Observed by Jews in Judaism
Type Jewish
Observances Tu Bishvat "seder"
Date 15th of Shvat
2013 date January 26
2014 date January 16
2015 date February 4
2016 date January 25
Related to Sukkot

Tu Bishvat (Hebrew: טו בשבט‎) is a Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat (in 2014, Tu Bishvat will start at sunset on 15 January and will end at nightfall on 16 January). It is also called "Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot" (Hebrew: ראש השנה לאילנות‎), literally "New Year of the Trees." In contemporary Israel the day is celebrated as an ecological awareness day and trees are planted in celebration.

Etymology[edit]

The name Tu Bishvat is derived from the Hebrew date of the holiday, which occurs on the fifteenth day of Shevat. "Tu" stands for the Hebrew letters Tet and Vav, which together have the numerical value of 9 and 6, adding up to 15.[1] Tu Bishvat is a relatively recent name; the date was originally called "Ḥamisha Asar BiShvat" (חמשה-עשר בשבט), which also means "Fifteenth of Shevat".[citation needed]

Talmud[edit]

Tu Bishvat appears in the Mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashanah as one of the four new years in the Jewish calendar. The discussion of when the New Year occurs was a source of debate among the rabbis: "And there are four new year dates: - The first of Nisan - new year for kings and festivals - The first of Elul - new year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say: the first of Tishrei. - The first of Tishrei- new year for calculation of the calendar, sabbatical years and jubilees, for planting and sowing - The first of Shevat, according to the school of Shamai; The school of Hillel says: the fifteenth of Shevat" (Rosh Hashana:2a)[2]

The rabbis of the Talmud ruled in favor of Hillel on this issue. Thus the 15th of Shevat became the date for calculating the beginning of the agricultural cycle for the purpose of biblical tithes.[3]

Biblical tithes[edit]

  • Orlah refers to a biblical prohibition (Leviticus 19:23) on eating the fruit of trees produced during the first three years after they are planted.[4]
  • Neta Reva'i refers to the biblical commandment (Leviticus 19:24) to bring fourth-year fruit crops to Jerusalem as a tithe.[5]
  • Maaser Sheni was a tithe which was eaten in Jerusalem and Maaser Ani was a tithe given to the poor (Deuteronomy 14:22-29) that were also calculated by whether the fruit ripened before or after Tu Bishvat.

Of the talmudic requirements for fruit trees which used Tu Bishvat as the cut-off date in the Hebrew calendar for calculating the age of a fruit-bearing tree, Orlah remains to this day in essentially the same form it had in talmudic times. In the Orthodox Jewish world, these practices are still observed today as part of Halacha, Jewish law. Fruit that ripened on a three year old tree before Tu Bishvat is considered orlah and is forbidden to eat, while fruit ripening on or after Tu Bishvat of the tree's third year is permitted. In the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th years of the Shmita cycle Maaser Sheni is observed today by a ceremony redeeming tithing obligations with a coin; in the 3rd and 6th years, Maaser Ani is substituted, and no coin is needed for redeeming it. Tu Bishvat is the cut-off date for determining to which year the tithes belong.

Kabbalistic and Hassidic customs[edit]

Dried fruit and almonds traditionally eaten by Ashkenazi Jews on Tu Bishvat

In the Middle Ages, Tu Bishvat was celebrated with a feast of fruits in keeping with the Mishnaic description of the holiday as a "New Year." In the 16th century, the kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed and his disciples instituted a Tu Bishvat seder in which the fruits and trees of the Land of Israel were given symbolic meaning. The main idea was that eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order while reciting the appropriate blessings would bring human beings, and the world, closer to spiritual perfection.[6]

In Israel, the kabbalistic Tu Bishvat seder has been revived, and is now celebrated by many Jews, religious and secular. Special haggadot have been written for this purpose.

In the Chassidic community, some Jews pickle or candy the etrog (citron) from Sukkot and eat it on Tu Bishvat. Some pray that they will be worthy of a beautiful etrog on the following Sukkot.[7]

Customs in Israel[edit]

On Tu Bishvat 1890, Rabbi Ze'ev Yavetz, one of the founders of the Mizrachi movement,[8] took his students to plant trees in the agricultural colony of Zichron Yaakov. This custom was adopted in 1908 by the Jewish Teachers Union and later by the Jewish National Fund (Keren HaKayemet L’Israel), established in 1901 to oversee land reclamation and afforestation of the Land of Israel. In the early 20th century, the Jewish National Fund devoted the day to planting eucalyptus trees to stop the plague of malaria in the Hula Valley;[9] today the Fund schedules major tree-planting events in large forests every Tu Bishvat.[10] Over a million Israelis take part in the Jewish National Fund's Tu Bishvat tree-planting activities.[11][dead link]

In keeping with the idea of Tu Bishvat marking the revival of nature, many of Israel's major institutions have chosen this day for their inauguration. The cornerstone-laying of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem took place on Tu Bishvat 1918; the Technion in Haifa, on Tu Bishvat 1925; and the Knesset, on Tu Bishvat 1949.[12]

Tu Bishvat is the Israeli Arbor Day,[10][13] and it is often referred to by that name in international media.[14] Ecological organizations in Israel and the diaspora have adopted the holiday to further environmental-awareness programs.[15][16] On Israeli kibbutzim, Tu Bishvat is celebrated as an agricultural holiday.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ When representing the number using letters, rabbinic rules forbid using the letter-numerals that represent 10 (י Yud) and 5 (ה Hei) together because they form the abbreviation of the "ineffable name of God", YHVH יהוה. Therefore, the number 15 is represented by the letters ט (Tet) and ו (Vav), or 9 and 6 = 15.
  2. ^ "Tu Bishvat". Jafi.org.il. 2005-05-15. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  3. ^ Kariv, Gilad (2011-01-05). "Tu Bishvat / The festival of love - the celebration of nature - Haaretz - Israel News". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  4. ^ "What is Orlah". Ask Moses. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  5. ^ "With Light and With Might: Glossary". Sichosinenglish.org. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  6. ^ Tu B'Shevat on Virtual Jerusalem[dead link]
  7. ^ "'A Thing or Tu 'bout Shvat'". Torah.org. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  8. ^ "Zionist Philosophies". Mfa.gov.il. 1999-10-19. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  9. ^ Zuroff, Rabbi Avraham (2011). "Just a Jewish Arbor Day?". Ohr Somayach International. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Rinat, Zafrir (20 January 2011). "Israelis Go Green For Tu Bishvat". Haaretz. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  11. ^ Paz, Shelly (2008-01-19). "Tu Bishvat gets 'shmita' treatment | Israel | Jerusalem Post". Fr.jpost.com. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  12. ^ "The Knesset's Early years". Knesset.gov.il. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  13. ^ "Tu B'Shevat (Arbor Day) in United States". Operational Home Front. 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "Arbor Day Around the World". Arbor Day Foundation. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  15. ^ "Kibbutz Lotan – Tu B'shvat Campaign". Kibbutz Lotan. 2005. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  16. ^ "Tu B’Shvat – The Jewish Earth Day". Jewish Woman Magazine. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  17. ^ Yael Zisling. "Tu Bishvat traditions". Gemsinisrael.com. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 

External links[edit]