New Year of the Trees

The next holiday on the Jewish calendar has interesting roots. Tu Bishvat (spelled many different ways, just make the sounds as best you can) has it’s roots in the Torah. Among the laws given for living in the land of Israel were the ones that outlined sacrifices given to the Temple. A portion of the orchard harvest was given in tithe. The farmer had to know when the year “began” for the trees and how old they were – you don’t harvest from a very young tree. A date was needed and for those of you who are gardeners you can see the sense in choosing a date in January – February (the season for planting trees from rootstock). The name of the holiday means the 15th of Shvat (think of the fourth of July).

But this rather straightforward meaning was enhanced by the mystical rabbis who used the image of a tree with it’s roots in heaven and it’s branches here on earth as a metaphor for the relationship between heaven and earth. So for the holiday marking the new year of the trees they developed a mystical seder, the Tu Bishvat seder.