Jan 9, 2020  By Jewish National Fund  Category: Environment,

Everything to know about Tu BiShvat, the original Earth Day

When is the last time you wished a tree Happy New Year? The 15th day of the month of Shevat on the Hebrew calendar is a great opportunity. It's known as Tu BiShvat, the New Year for Trees. This year, we will celebrate on Monday, February 10, 2020.

Why is Tu BiShvat in the winter? Why celebrate trees when nothing is growing?

The 15th of Shevat is the midpoint between fall and spring. Once half the winter has passed, its strength is weakened, the cold is not as intense, and the budding process begins.

So, yes, it may be smack in the middle of winter, but Tu BiShvat marks a turning point, a time when under all that cold and snow the sap of the trees is rising, readying for spring. 

It's important if you are a tree… or a person.

Throughout the Torah, trees play an integral role literally and figuratively in the lives of the people of Israel. After all, the Torah says "man is a tree of the field." For this reason, we humans can also celebrate with the trees. A few weeks ago, we read in "The Life of Sarah” that the Jewish people are nurtured by deep roots. Jewish National Fund has taken this idea and showcases it in its literal sense through the hundreds of millions of trees planted to turn Israel's desert sands into lush and bountiful forests.

So how do we observe Tu BiShvat?

We mark the 15th of Shevat by eating fruit. The traditional observance includes a Seder the night of Tu BiShvat (or the night before). You can do this as a part of dinner or after dinner. The table is set with a table cloth and flowers, and the following items are center stage:

Wine or grape juice 
Fruits with a hard pit such as apricots or cherries
Fruits we eat whole (with their seeds) such as blueberries
Fruits with shells or peels, such as oranges, almonds, walnuts
Delicious bread, of course 

Be sure to enjoy some of those fruits for which Israel is famous: olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

The blessing for the fruit of the vine

Baruch attah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha'olam, borei pri ha'gefen.
(Blessed are You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.)

The blessing for the fruit

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam, borei pri ha-etz.
(Blessed are You, Lrd our Gd, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.)

If tasting a fruit for the first time in its season, recite the Shehecheyanu blessing before saying the fruit blessing:

Ba-ruch a-tah Ado-nai, Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam, she-heche-ya-nu ve-ki-ye-ma-nu ve-higi-a-nu liz-man ha-zeh.

(Blessed are You, Lrd our Gd, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.)

You you an etz chaim, a tree of life

She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and whoever holds on to her is happy.” Proverbs 3:18

JNF's highest humanitarian award is called the Tree of Life Award. Each year, JNF presents individuals or families this award in appreciation of their community involvement, dedication to American-Israeli friendship and support for Israel. Every one of you plant seeds with JNF that will lead to a brighter future tomorrow for the Jewish community and for Israel. It is because of your efforts that we can grow and continue the great work we do each and every day.

May we all enjoy a healthy and fruitful winter.

Yossi Kahana is the director of JNF's Task Force on Disabilities.