Tu B’shvat – a Rosh Hashanah, but for the trees
This Holiday is celebrated on the 15th of Shevat, this year it's the weekend of January 17-19 (usually it falls on February, this year is exceptional). It marks the end of an agricultural year and the beginning of the next one.
In Israel the most famous Tu B’shvat song is : "The almond tree is blooming and the golden sun is shining". Usually by Tu B’shvat most of the rain – and the winter – in Israel are already over, the trees are drenched with water and the fruits start to grow. So Tu B’shvat is the starting point for a new year. The almond tree is so meaningful because it is the first tree to start During the long generations of Galut (exile) Tu B’shvat has grown to symbolize the detachment of the people of Israel from their land. It gave expression to the yearning for Ertetz Yisrael and its fruits, and it became customary to eat fruits of Eretz Yisrael and praise the distant homeland.
In 1890 when the land was barren and had no trees growing on it after more than 2000 years of exile, the practice to plant new trees on Tu B’shvat started, later to become a tradition by the Keren Kayemet (JNF) and Tu B’shvat has been celebrated since then by tens of thousands of school children going out for massive planting.
Many people celebrate this holiday by arranging a "Seder Tu B’shvat":, They eat fruit of the 7 kinds by which the land of Israel excels :Wheat (flour, any kind of bread, cake, pie or quiche), Barley (cooked alone, in soup, or by drinking black beer – malt, that is made of barley).,Vine – raisins, and drinking varied colors of wine. Figs –fresh or dried, Pomegranate – if available, or pomegranate juice or liquor. Olives, Dates – fresh or dried
And then come all kinds of fruits and nuts. The sages of Tzfat (Safed) had set this tradition according to the Kabbalah, due to the saying that "man is like the tree in the field" (Deut. 20:19) and they wanted to mark stages in human life and in the nation's life that find resemblence in a tree, like exile (fall) and revival (blooming in the spring) and human activities like Ma'aseh - doing things (fruits that are peeled and only the inside is eaten) Yetzira - creating things (the outside is eaten and the inside in thrown away) and the perfect stage Bri'ah - creating anew, like when G-d created the world – when the whole fruit is eaten with no waste. There is no special point in eating dried fruit, but it became habitual in the exile since fresh fruits were usually not available during the winter.
Because of the resemblance between trees and people, says the legend, the trees came to G-d and asked to have a Rosh Hashana of their own. Their request was accepted and their holiday was set on the month of Shvat, marked in astrology by Aquarius, the symbol for an abundance of water, because trees, like humans, depend on water which is crucial and vital to the lives of both. Have you ever heard of Chony HaMe'agel (the Maker of Circles) who lived circa 200 CE? He was given his name when there was a year of terrible drought and he made a circle on the ground and started praying for rain, declaring before G-d that he would never go out of the circle until there was rain. And eventually, the rain arrived.
Chony taught the world the way of thinking about planting trees as a way of making the world better for the next generations. As he told it: " once I was walking on my way, and saw an old man planting a Carob tree, and it is known that this tree makes fruit only 70 years after being planted. So I asked the old man: Do you think you are going to live 70 more years to eat the fruits? And he told me: When I came to this world I found Carobs. Who planted them for me? My ancestors. The same way as they planted for me – I plant for my progeny".