Happy Tu Bishvat

Today (from sundown last night to sundown tonight) is a minor Jewish holiday, Tu Bishvat. I had never heard of this until I read an article about it in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune.

As Wikipedia explains:

Tu Bishvat (or Tu B’Shvat) (ט״ו בשבט) 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 (ראש השנה לאילנות ) “new year of the trees”. The name Tu Bishvat comes from the date of the holiday, the 15th day of Shevat (שְׁבָט). Shevat is the name of a Hebrew calendar month and ט”ו, 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 (חמישה-עשר בשבט), “The Fifteenth of Shevat”.

Tu Bishvat originally was simply the last date of the tax year for the produce of a tree. Any fruit ripening after Tu Bishvat was to be assessed for tithing only for the following year. Today Tu Bishvat is celebrated as the birthday of the trees with a symbolic eating of fruits and with active redemption of barren land by planting trees. People express their ecological concerns and their desire to reconnect themselves to nature. It has become a kind of Jewish Earth Day.

This was all completely new to me, and I found it fascinating, so I wanted to share it with my ‘Nacle friends.


  1. We could Mormonize this and celebrate the numerous trees in Mormon mythology. Or not. Jewish Earth Day sounds cool.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    One of the local congregations mentioned in the Trib article is Etz Chayim, “The Tree of Life.”

    I definitely think this is a holiday that lends itself to Mormonization.

  3. After my recent conversion, I had considered Mormonizing Jewish holidays. I kind of wonder why we don’t still observe Passover, Yom Kippur, etc., but that’s a whole other thread right there.

    I would think that observance of an Earth-Day type celebration would be completely appropriate, considering that Rev 7:3 says “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees…” (slightly out of context, I know.) With all of our health rules, taking care of the planet seems to be built into our theology. Not to mention that the Old Testament (book, chapter, verse?) instructs you on how to bury your waste so it doesn’t contaminate your campsite or drinking water.

  4. Huh. Didn’t get so much as mentioned at Torah study at the synagogue this morning…

  5. It’s nice to think that there is fruit ripening…somewhere. That can be hard to remember during a freezing winter. Thanks for the juicy info.

  6. Back in my corporate lawyer days, there were “Business Days” and there were “Olympia and York Business Days.” The former were all weekdays except U.S. legal holidays. The latter were all weekday except U.S. legal holidays and a whole laundry list of Jewish holidays, most of which the Jewish members of my firm (mostly non-religious) had never heard of.

    But Tu Bishvat didn’t make it to that list–probably because of the lack of any prohibition on work.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark B., at my last law firm at Passover time there were large baskets of matsah everywhere for people to eat. I thought it was pretty cool.

  8. Kevin,
    I was thinking more along the lines of the Tree of Knowledge!

  9. anonymous says:

    Good Lord, is everyone on these Mormon blogs a lawyer? I’m new to the bloggernacle so I’m just discovering this.

    Sorry for the threadjack, but jeez…

  10. little ole me says:

    After the post by Kristine in Dec (regarding the 12 Days of Christmas and the Christian Calendar)–I thought I’d throw religious holidays that we don’t particularly observe on my branch’s Sunday bulletin (I prepare it). This holiday totally made the cut. I was quite impressed by this little holiday. I like holidays that carry a deeper meaning (than shopping) and I kinda like the fact that it’s neglected–a little gem to feast on if you’re lucky.

    “Everything in the vegetative kingdom grows upwards. We learn from trees that even though we are grounded, pulled to earth by the Desire To Receive for the Self Alone, it is by growing upward towards the Light that we can reach spiritual fulfillment. We too can tap into this power and defy our gravity – depression, doubt, insecurity… It’s time to grow.” (From the Kabbalah newsletter)

    “Tu B’Shevat is a time for Jews to focus on “the Tree” — the Tree of Torah and the Tree of our own spiritual growth, and our potential for growth.” (Jewish site I found thru google)

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