09 January 2014

"When You Come to the Land and Plant a Tree ..."

Throughout Israel on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shv'at, children will be leaving their classrooms to go out and plant trees. This is Tu BiShv'at, the Israeli equivalent of Arbor Day or National Tree Week. But what is behind this tradition?

Tu BiShv'at is a transliteration of the Hebrew date of this holiday. 'Tu' pronounced 'too' is not really a word but is the number 15. Hebrew letters also carry a numerical meaning (a bit like Roman numerals) 'Tu' is constructed from the Hebrew letters  (tet) which is the ninth letter and  (vav), the sixth letter. 9 + 6 = 15. 

The 15th of Shv'at was chosen by ancient Rabbis as the date to mark the boundary between the previous year's fruit crop and the current year's crop, for the purpose of calculating the tithe. Any new blossom on the trees after this date would be counted as part of the current year's harvest. In Israel, the first tree to blossom is the Almond, and this date usually coincides with the time when the the Almond tree starts to bud. In the book of Levititcus (19:23-25),  God gave this command to Israel concerning trees:
“When you enter the land and plant fruit trees, leave the fruit unharvested for the first three years and consider it forbidden. Do not eat it. In the fourth year the entire crop must be consecrated to the Lord as a celebration of praise.  Finally, in the fifth year you may eat the fruit. If you follow this pattern, your harvest will increase. I am the Lord your God."
So, Tu BiShv'at was chosen as the birthday or new year for trees. There are actually four New Year's in the Hebrew calendar: 1st Nisan is the new year for calculating the reign of Kings and Festivals; 1st Elul is the new year for calculating animal tithes; 1st Tishrei is the new year for calculation of the calendar, sabbatical years and jubilees, planting and sowing; and finally 15th Shv'at is the new year for trees. The idea of multiple new years is not as strange as it may first sound, when we consider we also assign different start dates for such things as the school year, for the fiscal/tax year and for the beginning of the calendar year.

How to Celebrate Tu BiShv'at


Eat fruit

Considering Tu BiShv'at is all about fruit trees, it is not surprising that fruit would be one of the highlights of this day. Particularly, the kinds associated with the Land of Israel. In Deuteronomy 8:7-8, God reminds the people about the abundant goodness of the Land and refers to seven species: wheat, barley, figs, grapes, pomegranates, olives and dates (date honey). The seven species are therefore often eaten to celebrate Tu BiShv'at. Try out this delicious Tu BiShv'at style recipe:

7 SPECIES SALAD
INGREDIENTS:

  • Baby Lettuce
  • Pomegranate, seeds only
  • Fresh figs, quartered
  • Seedless grapes, halved
  • Fresh dates
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Honey (optional for a sweeter dressing)
  • Barley wheat crouton (You can make these by cutting barley & wheat bread into chunks & brush or toss with olive oil and bake in a low oven until crisp.)

DIRECTIONS:
1   Mix everything together in a bowl except the oil, vinegar, honey & croutons.
2   In a separate bowl or jug, mix the oil & vinegar to make the dressing. Adjust to your taste and add honey      if desired.
3   Pour over the salad and gently mix together.
4   Add the croutons and serve.



Plant Trees

Tu BiShv'at is a day for school children and volunteers to go out into the fields and barren hillsides to plant trees or to raise money for the planting of trees in Israel. Many trees are planted through the initiative of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) who for 110 years have been replenishing the barren wastelands left by unscrupulous conquerors; preparing the land to be plentiful like it was in ancient times. Since its inception, the JNF has planted nearly a quarter of a billion trees. The New Year for trees is a fitting time to plant new trees and it has become a tradition all over Israel to take this opportunity to bless the Land God has given, with a new tree.

A TREE PLANTED IN ISRAEL

To commemorate Tu BiShv'at, we are offering a special free gift for every donation of £40 or more (valid on donations received before 31 Mar 2014).
We will arrange for a tree to be planted in Israel in your name, and you will receive a certificate to mark the occasion. (Certificates can also be dedicated to a person or a special event).  Contact us with your details for the certificate if you would like to receive this free gift: email us at info@yourpeoplemypeople.org