Jewish Holiday: Tu B’Shevat


Tu B'Shvat is on the Fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Shevat and is the "New Year for the Trees" or Rosh Hashana La-ilanot. In Israel everything is green and it is the start of spring.

It is just the right time to plant trees. On the fifteenth (Tu in Hebrew) we plant trees which will grow strong and tall

An ancient custom in Israel when a baby was born, the parents planted a tree in its honor. The tree was planted on Tu B'Shvat following the child's birth. If the baby was a boy, a cedar was planted. If the baby was a girl, a cypress was planted. As the children grew so did the trees. When children got married the wood from the trees built their chupah (wedding canopy). As the wood from the two trees were joined in the chupah so were the bride and groom in their marriage.

Many hundreds of years Tu B'Shvat has been celebrated throughout the world. Even when we had no homeland we still remembered and celebrated Tu B'Shvat. Although many could not plant trees because it was not spring during the fifteenth of Shevat where they lived, they ate the "fruit of the trees" and remembered. The fruits of the trees they ate were like those in Israel: almonds, dates, figs, raisins, and carob. It was considered a mitzva to eat these fruits during Tu B'Shvat and recite the blessings.

A modern tradition for people who live outside of Israel is to plant a tree in Israel by contributing to the Israel National Fund. They will plant a tree for you in Israel.

Background on the Tu B'Shvat Seder

In the 16th century, Sephardic Kabbalists [mystics] invigorated the holiday by composing a Tu B'Shvat seder, based upon the Pesach seder. (The Sephardic Jews originated from Spain). The Sephardic seder did not catch on among Ashkenazic Jews.

The Tu B'Shvat seder is loosely based on the Pesach seder. In particular, just like the Pesach [Passover] seder, there are four glasses of wine drunk during the seder. At the Tu B'Shvat seder, however, the color of the wine in each glass is varied. The first cup is all white wine; the second is mostly white mixed with some red; the third is mostly red mixed with some white; and the fourth is all red wine. Some substitute blush and rose for the middle two cups of wine as these are "mixed" colors already.

There are several variations on the seder for Tu B'Shvat, these vary according to tradition. The seder that we present is a combination of many of these and is an example.