From Rabbi Kalman Packouz ‘s Shabbat Shalom Weekly newsletter:
There are 4 New Years in the Jewish calendar – and Tuesday, January 25th is Tu B’Shevat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat) and the New Year for trees!
The first Mishna – teaching – in the Talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashanah informs us of the 4 New Years:
- The first of the Hebrew month Nissan is the New Year with regards to counting the years in the reign of the Kings of Israel.
- The first of Elul is the New Year with regards to tithing of the animals. (One out of ten animals born within that calendar year from Elul until the beginning of Elul the following year was given to the Temple.)
- The first of Tishrei is the New Year for the judgment of mankind -for life or death, rich or poor, sickness or health – as well as for counting the Sabbatical Year (Shmita) and the Jubilee year (Yovel) for the land of Israel; the counting of the first three years of a fruit tree when the fruit is not allowed to be eaten (Orlah), and calculating the tithes for grain and vegetables.
- The 15th of Shevat is the New Year for trees with reference to calculating tithes due to be given from fruit of trees in the time of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Tu B’Shevat is a festive day. The Torah praises the Land of Israel with reference to the fruits of the trees and the produce of the soil:”A land of wheat and barley and vines (grapes) and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and (date) honey … and you shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” (Deut. 8:8-10).
It is celebrated by eating the special types of fruits for which Israel is renowned: dates, pomegranates, figs, grapes – and buxer (carob or St. John’s bread). It’s also celebrated by planting trees in Israel and if you can’t get to Israel, you can purchase trees to be planted in Israel from the Jewish National Fund. The Kabbalists in Safad created a Tu B’Shevat Seder (similar to the Passover Seder) with explanations and meditations where the inner dimensions of fruits are expounded, along with blessings, songs and deep discussion. You can find more information at http://www.aish.com/tubshvat.