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Tu B'Shvat - January 16, 2014
Tu Bishvat (or Tu Bi'Shevat) is a minor Jewish holiday (meaning there are no restrictions on working) and one of the four ''Rosh Hashanahs'' ("New Years") mentioned in the Mishnah, the basis of the Talmud. Tu Bishvat is the ''Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot'' "new year of the trees". The name Tu Bishvat comes from the date of the holiday, the 15th day of Shevat. Shevat is the name of a Hebrew calendar month, read as "Tu," is how the number 15 is represented by Hebrew numerals using the Hebrew alphabet. Haredi Jews call the day by its original full name, ''Hamishah Asar BeShevat'' - "The Fifteenth of Shevat".
Tu Bishvat was originally a day when the fruits that grew from that day on, were counted for the following year regarding tithes. (This is according to the school of Hillel the Elder, while according to the school of Shamai that day is the first of Shevat (Mishnah, Tractate Rosh Hashana 1:1).
''Etrog'' (citron) to be used in the four species held during Hallel prayers on Sukkot. In conjunction with this practice, many Hassidic Jews eat etrog on this day. Note: The citron pictured here does not have the ''pitom'' tip at its bottom that is favored by many.
During the Middle Ages or possibly a little before that, this day started to be celebrated with a minor ceremony of eating fruits, since the Mishnah called it "Rosh Hashanah" ("New Year"), and that was later understood as being a time appropriate for celebration.
During 1600s in the Land of Israel, Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed and his disciples created a short ''Tu Bishvat seder'', somewhat like the Passover seder, that evokes the holiday's Kabbalah themes. There is a Hasidic Judaism tradition that on this day a devout Jew should pray for a kosher etrog (the citron) that is part of the four species of trees used on the major festival of Sukkot.
In modern times Tu Bishvat has become popular with many Jews, and is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Jewish schools, synagogues and communities. The main activity is planting trees in open places in Israel.
The tradition to plant trees started in 1890 when the teacher and writer Zeev Yabetz went out with his students in a school in Zichron Yaakov for a festive planting. This iniative was adopted in 1908 by the Israeli Teachers trade union and later on by the Land Development Authority (Hakeren Hakayemet L'Israel).
It is customary to eat different types of fruit on this holiday and to recite the List of Jewish prayers and blessings. Many people also eat all kinds of dried fruit as well, such as raisins and nuts,
Traditionally, these types of fruit are:
Wheat, Barley, Grapes, Figs, Pomegranates, Olives, Date Palm Fruit
Many have the custom of eating candied ''etrog''.
In addition, Kabbalistic tradition teaches that eating these fruits somehow creates a connection with the more abstract Tree of Life that Names of God in Judaism placed in the Garden of Eden as mentioned in the Book of Genesis where Adam and Eve had been placed after their Creation according to Genesis|creation.
The Tu Bishvat Seder
The Tu bishvat seder is a kabbalistic way to celebrate the holiday. Some friends are invited to the house, and various symbolic offerings are made. Wine and fruit are enjoyed, and there is a discussion on the four main aspects of the holiday (physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual) and how they relate to the four themes of the seder (social, cosmic, national, ecological). The seder host may choose one aspect of one theme to concentrate on.
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