#15 Holiday Explorer: Tu B’Shevat – Thinking About the Trees

#15 Tu B’Shevat – The Holiday for Trees and The Environment 

Tu B’Shevat (Hebrewט״ו בשבט‎) is a Jewish holiday occurring on the 15th day of theHebrew month of Shevat (in 2018, Tu B’Shevat begins at sunset on 30 January and ends at nightfall on 31 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. Its role is important to the concept of Chadash. Tu B’Shevat is the Israeli Arbor Day,  and it is often referred to by that name in international media. On Israeli kibbutzim, Tu B’Shevat is celebrated as an agricultural holiday.[19]

#1 WATCH: What is Tu B’Shevat? & The purpose of Trees

#2 STUDY: Customs for Tu B’shevat

One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day, or to eat from the Seven Species (shivat haminim) described in the Bible as being abundant in the land ofIsrael. The Shivat Haminim are: wheat, barley, grapes (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (honey) (Deut. 8:8). You can make a nice vegetarian pilaf from the shivat haminim: a bed of cooked bulgar wheat or wheat berries and barley, topped with figs, dates, raisins (grapes), and pomegranate seeds, served with a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar (grapes) and pomegranate juice.

Some people plant trees on this day and In the 16th century, kabbalists, developed a seder ritual conceptually similar to the Passover seder, discussing the spiritual significance of fruits and of the shivat haminim.

#3 WATCH: A Tu b’Shevat Seder

#4 STUDY:  The 3rd Day of Creation in the Torah

On the third day of creation, The Eternal first gathered the waters together to allow dry land to be seen, and then created trees and all vegetation: “Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed yielding herbs, and fruit trees producing fruit according to its kind, in which its seed is found on the earth.” When the day’s work was completed, The Eternal One said, “And it was good,” twice.

Gd’s creative power—symbolized by the reproductive potential within trees—can be expressed in two ways: First, there are trees and grasses that grow in the wild. Their growth is a linear process: the wind blows and disperses the seeds, or animals eat the fruit and carry the seeds to distant locations. Then there is vegetation cultivated by the human hand. We figure out the best seasons for planting, the best way to fertilize and tend to the crops to ensure the greatest yield and become partners with the Divine.

#5 WATCH: Honi Comes Full Circle – a Talmudic Tu B’Shevat Tale

#6: Text Study: The Sabbatical Year

The idea of a Sabbatical Year is the core conservation principle in the Bible:

Six years shall you sow your field, and six years shall you prune your vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof. But in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath unto the Lord; you shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. (Leviticus 25:1-5)


According to Maimonides, one of the goals of ceasing all agricultural activity is to improve and strengthen the land. Sabbath is a return to nature. The last Sabbatical observed in Israel was in 1993-94.





You shall not let your cattle gender with a diverse kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon you a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together. (Leviticus 19:19)


The Torah teaches that we must preserve the natural balance of creation. Every species was created for some purpose and should not be interfered with.




# 7 Review and Response

1. What is the date for the Jewish Holiday for trees?
2. What is a modern day custom to observe Tu’ b’Shevat?
3. What does the Torah teach about ecology and the environment
4. What is a sabbatical year?
5. Why do you think it is important to care for the environment?


Need some help? We’re here for you. At any time, if you have any questions, please contact one of our teachers so we can help you. Also, at the end of the session, remember to review your responses in your Tamid Workbook so you can get credit for this lesson. Behatzlacha (Hebrew for good luck)! You can reach Sarah at (646)360-0689 or connect@tamidnyc.org