Tu B'

A Special Tu B’Shvat Seder Celebration was held on Sunday, January 28. It was a fun and very educational event!

CLICK HERE to see pictures of our Tu B’Shvat Seder

I was so pleased with the big turnout for our annual Tu B’Shvat Seder, a ceremony to celebrate the Birthday of the Trees. This winter holiday falls just as the almond trees begin to blossom in parts of Israel.

Major thanks to Michelle Hockersmith for being the dynamo behind planning and running this annual event. Michelle designed the celebration, carefully choosing the fruits and other foods that represent Israeli agriculture, and its importance to the people and the economy. She also showed us how Tu B’Shvat represents doubling down on our Jewish commitment to Tikkun Olam – to repair the world – by practicing good stewardship of our Earth – recycling and cleaning our water, fighting global warming, saving the environment for the next generations.  Thank you, Renana Friedman, for helping Michelle prepare all the special foods!

Thanks also to Adam and Kristy Stokke Reich and family for helping to set up, and all the families who helped clean up afterward.

The holiday of Tu B’Shvat has its origins not in the Bible, but rather in the Mishna, which was written in the early 3rd century CE. It is primarily an agricultural holiday, as evinced by its other name, New Year of Trees. or the Birthday of the Trees.

This holiday is celebrated in the midst of the rainy season (late January or early February). It was originally a holiday with halakhic (Jewish legal) significance, as it was used to mark the age of a tree for the purpose of harvesting and tithing its fruit – tithes that were given to the priests who served in the Temple and did not own any land.

After the Jewish people were scattered in the Diaspora and were no longer involved primarily in agriculture, Tu B’Shvat became a holiday symbolizing the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

Holiday Customs

Planting saplings – This is a custom that developed relatively recently – in the late 19th century, with the renewal of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. The initiative to plant trees began in the schools and spread throughout the country and became a deeply rooted custom. Today it is customary to take children on tree-planting outings on Tu B’Shvat. Preschools and schools hold special ceremonies to mark the holiday. In the past few years, an ecological element has been added to this holiday: the conservation and nurturing of trees (and the green landscape in general) as a symbol of the importance of nature in our lives.

Dried fruits – Another specific Tu B’Shvat custom is the eating of dried fruits. This custom is a carry-over from Jewish life in the Diaspora – when fresh fruits from Israel were not available. Today dried fruits are available everywhere throughout the year, but with the approach of Tu B’Shvat the market stalls and stores are full of special gift baskets.
Tu B’Shvat Seder – Over the past decades the custom of holding a Tu B’Shvat seder – a ceremonial meal – has begun to spread.  The seder is based on the model of the Pesach seder, and special prayers and songs have been composed for it. Fresh and dried fruits and nuts with which the Land of Israel was blessed are served at the seder, as are four cups of red and white wine or grape juice.

Important Information

​If you too would like to plant a tree, you can do so through the Jewish National Fund, which organizes tree-planting events throughout the country as part of guided nature tours and a variety of other activities. Details can be found at the Jewish National Fund website. You can also enjoy the tree-planting experience even if you do not visit Israel on Tu B’Shvat (or at all). You can now plant a tree via the Internet, under the “click and plant” program.
Your rabbi planting a tree in Naot Kedumim, Biblical Park Preserve in Israel