Celebrate Tu B'Shevat, New Year's for Trees, Now Jewish Earth Day

planting trees israel kkl

New Year’s for the Trees, is about to be celebrated in Israel and by Jews everywhere. Some people like to plant trees, like this family.

Over in the Holy Land, and the Jewish Diaspora, Jewish people are stock-piling dried fruit and nuts to welcome in one of four different new years celebrated each year. Starting at sundown January 30 (15 Shevat on the Jewish calendar), Jewish people around the world will say happy new year to the trees.

Known as Tu B’Shevat (or Tu B’Shvat), as tradition goes, to celebrate this Jewish version of Arbor Day in style, the trees in Israel rent a DJ and disco ball and go to the desert to dance trance all night long. Well… not really…the trees do not celebrate at all. The onus is on the people.

For Jewish traditionalists, the day is a promise of rejuvenation and redemption and activities include eating a new fruit of the season; for others who are less traditional (and even completely secular), the Hebrew holiday is used as an occasion to discuss environmental issues, eat piles of dried fruit that are known to grow in Israel, plant trees and learn how teachings of the Torah can help protect the earth. Kids all over the world are collecting money for planting new trees.

The historical significance of the holiday is more relevant to the land of Israel, where according to Jewish sources – for thousands of years, people have used this day to calculate the age of fruit-bearing trees in the Land of Israel. It is necessary for landowners and farmers to know the age of the tree when it comes to tithing – a practice drawn from Leviticus 19:23-25 which says that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years of a tree’s life. The fourth year fruits are to go to the Temple, when there was one.

According to the Coalition of the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) in the United States – in recent years, Jewish communities around the world have begun to celebrate Tu B’Shvat as a “Jewish Earth Day” – organizing meals, tree-plantings, ecological restoration activities, and educational events, all of which provide an opportunity to express a Jewish commitment to protecting the earth. There isn’t so much of that in Israel, where naturally-earthy people tend to celebrate the international Earth Day holiday closer to its time (when it doesn’t fall on Shabbat or another Jewish holiday).

So many holidays. Nice there is one for the trees.

More about more Jewish holidays with a green spin:
Green Your Mitzvahs for Purim
What To Do on Tu Be Shevat in Israel
A Happy, Sustainable Passover to All
Plant a Tree for Tu B’Shvat… Online
Start the Year Right with a Sustainable Rosh Hashanah
Green Holiday Celebrations Continue with a Green Sukkah

Image via Emilie

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9 thoughts on “Celebrate Tu B'Shevat, New Year's for Trees, Now Jewish Earth Day”

  1. Mitzimi says:

    In addition to its importance in terms of determining tithes, Tu B'Shvat also had deep kabbalistic importance. Many people in Israel follow the ancient custom of holding a Tu B'Shvat seder, a mystical ritual that uses fruits of the trees as symbols of our spiritual journey. You can find samples and instructions online.It's gratifying to see that more people are now celebrating this holiday and appreciating its environmental aspects – perhaps it will lead them to learn more about traditional Judaism's great emphasis on the respect we must have for our environment – as much as individuals as when it comes to urban planning, which is something many people don't realize traditional Judaism even addresses.

  2. Mitzimi says:

    In addition to its importance in terms of determining tithes, Tu B'Shvat also had deep kabbalistic importance. Many people in Israel follow the ancient custom of holding a Tu B'Shvat seder, a mystical ritual that uses fruits of the trees as symbols of our spiritual journey. You can find samples and instructions online.It's gratifying to see that more people are now celebrating this holiday and appreciating its environmental aspects – perhaps it will lead them to learn more about traditional Judaism's great emphasis on the respect we must have for our environment – as much as individuals as when it comes to urban planning, which is something many people don't realize traditional Judaism even addresses.

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