Tu B’Shvat is fast approaching. This year it falls on Wednesday Feb.8,2012, but the feast starts on Tuesday Feb.7 after sunset.
“Tu” is derived from טו which is 15 – in the month of Shvat.
There is a custom to plant trees, in Israel, on Tu B’Shevat. One of the reasons for this custom is contained in a command of the Torah:
Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:23 “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten.
We also know this festival as the festival of new trees or festival of new fruits. It is customary among some of our fellow Bene-Israel community to do “Malida” on Sunday evening having new fruits of the season.
I am adding below some customs of this festival and also some insights.
Written by Rav Yehuda Samet
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat, is the New Year for trees. On this day, it is customary to eat from the seven species for which the land of Israelis praised: “…a land of wheat and barley and (grape) vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and (date) honey.” (Devarim (Deuteronomy)
Tu B’Shevat is the day when new sap starts to rise in the tree, when new life is starting to emerge. Even though we are still in the middle of winter and all looks bleak, cold and lifeless, Tu B’Shevat comes, a day of new life with the promise of rejuvenation.
That’s why Tu B’Shevat can be compared to the coming of the Mashiach and the final redemption of mankind. Everything looks bleak and there seems to be no sign of life; we are threatened by increasing assimilation and the loss of Jewish identity; Jewish life seems frozen and moribund. But even at that very moment, the sap is rising. On the surface, you can see no change whatsoever, but precisely at that moment, life secretly and inexorably starts to burgeon anew.
There are supposed to be thirty (30) types of fruit:
10 which have no pit and no peel, but are eaten the way they are:
10 which have pits inside:
10 which have a peel:
When eating these fruits, there is an opinion that one should have in mind (the Kavanah) that through eating them we are making a Tiqqun (reparation) for the sin of Adam, who sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. In truth, we should have this Kavanah all year round, but on Tu Bishbat it is all the more appropriate
This section comes from the Virtual Jerusalem site.
The Tu B’Shevat Seder (modeled after the Pesach Seder) is an old-new custom which is being revived in our day. Based on a kabbalistic work, the Seder takes the participants on a journey through different physical and metaphysical realms. Fruits are eaten, blessings are recited and tales are told about trees and Nature and the “repairing of the world.”
The Seder provides a means to celebrate the change of seasons: Four cups of wine are drunk – each one redder than its predecessor – symbolizing the shifting pattern of wildflowers in Israel during the year, and evoking the awakening of the earth from slumber to eventual ripening.
Fruits of the Land are eaten during the ceremony, each offering a metaphor for four metaphysical realms of existence, and a corollary with human nature and the people of Israel’s collective personality.
The Seder offers an opportunity to contemplate our connection with the world, and to reflect on the Source of all nurturing on our planet.
While the Land of Israel is blessed with many fruits, the seven described in the Torah verse, below, had special status: They were brought to the Temple as First Fruits, once a year, and on Tu B’Shevat, it became customary to make a point of eating, and saying blessings, on these fruits in particular. As such they both symbolize the Land and the close links of the Jewish people with that land.
“For the Lord your HaShem
is bringing you into a good land. . .
of wheat and barley and
grapevines and figs and pomegranates;
a land of olives and honey (from dates).
1. WHEAT – Chitah
Wheat’s essential role puts it first among the seven species. Since ancient times, it has been considered one of man’s most basic crops: from wheat flour, bread is produced. On Shavuot, the festival of the First Fruits, the first of the wheat crop would be brought to the Temple.
2. BARLEY – Se’orah
Barley was, and still is, an important grain in Israel. Because it requires less water than wheat, it grows even in the arid fields of the Negev. Since it ripens before wheat, its harvest begins in the month of Nisan (spring). Two weeks later, the Omer offering brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as part of the Pesach festival was a barley offering. Bread prepared from barley was considered to be “poor man’s” bread, possibly because it was not considered as tasty as bread made from wheat.
3. GRAPES – Gefen
Man has been cultivating grapes from the earliest times: the first vineyard mentioned in the Bible was planted by Noah after the Flood. The cluster of grapes, brought to the Children of Israel in the wilderness by the Spies, symbolized the bounty of the Land of Israel. Throughout the generations, grapes have provided fruit and wine, and contributed to the economy of the indigenous Jewish community. Wine, indicative of joy, is used in many Jewish rituals and ceremonies.
4. FIG – T’einah
The broad fig tree gives a lot of shade, hence the prophet Micha proclaims in his vision of peace in the Land: “Each man will sit beneath his grapevine and his fig tree, and no one will fear. . . .” The sweet tasting fruit ripens in the hottest part of the summer, and the figs are eaten fresh or dried.The Tanach refers to the fig as a symbol of fertility: it was also one of the fruits brought back by the spies to prove that the Land bore fruit.
5. POMEGRANATE – Rimon
An old Hebrew song by Yaakov Orland portrays the pomegranate:
The pomegranate tree has aromas that flow Out from the Dead Sea and on to Jericho…
The pomegranate also has rich red flowers and dark red fruit, and its abundant seeds serve as a powerful symbol of fertility.
The pomegranate’s shape has been used in many decorative objects, such as the rimonim bells used to decorate Torah scrolls, the 200 rimonim of copper on the beams of the Temple and the rimonim which decorated the High Priest’s garment in the Temple.
6. OLIVE – Zayit
The olive tree is one of the oldest and most common trees in the Land of Israel. There are olive trees in the Galilee that are estimated to be thousands of years old. Its leaves are green all year round, its roots are strong and the silvery underside of the leaves gives off a sheen of light.
In Biblical times, olive oil was used to anoint priests and kings; in its purified form it was used to light the seven-branched Menorah (candelabra) in the Temple. The olive itself is eaten after being preserved; its oil is used for cosmetics, healing compounds and soaps, as well as for food.
The olive branch is a symbol of peace: it was evidence for Noah that the flood had ended. It is part of the emblem of the State of Israel, its deep roots symbolizing the people’s strong attachment to the land.
7. DATE – Tamar (D’vash)
The date is both one of theSeven Species for which the Land of Israel is noted, and one of the Four Species used on the festival of Succoth.The date tree is a tall one, and its fruit grows in clusters near the top. The sweet dates, which ripen at the end of summer, are eaten fresh or dried – and are also used to make honey. The tree itself is very versatile, its branches being used for cover (as in the Succah), its fibers for rope and its trunk for building.
Tu B’Shevat Sameach!