This Jewish holiday is celebrated on the 15th of the Hebrew month Sh’vat (which begins tonight, January 15th), known as the “New Year for the Trees.” It is similar to our Arbor Day or an environmental awareness day.
“I will put the cedar in the wilderness, the acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert together with the box tree and the cypress, that they may see and recognize, and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the Lord has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Isaiah 41.19-20
Tu b’Sh’vat marks the beginning of spring in Israel! Most of the rains have already fallen. The beautiful almond trees show the first sign of spring as they begin to bloom.
On this special day, the synagogues around the work plan special activities to celebrate. Together they pray prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord Who gave them the Land of Israel and all its goodness.
Israel is famous for their growth of olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. It is traditional to have a ceremonial meal on Tu B'Shvat, in which these fruits from the Holy Land are eaten.
In addition, it has become a tradition to plant a tree on this holiday.
Tu b’Sh’vat is considered a national Israeli holiday and not a Biblical one; it does have prophetic significance.
Since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Land of Israel has been desolate as was predicted. It was a wilderness with no vegetation and almost uninhabitable. In fact, in 1867, Mark Twain visited Israel and published his impression in a book called Innocents Abroad. Here is his description:
“….. A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
“In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.” Isaiah 27:6