Trees and Tu B'Shvat
Tu B' Shvat is a Jewish holiday that begins on the 15th day of the month of Shvat. It is a also known as the day for planting trees. The word " Tu" in reality is the number 15 and is not really a word. However, if the symbol in Hebrew were written for this number it would spell God. As a result the number 15 is always written as 9 +6 in Hebrew. Today, trees are planted in Israel largely by the Jewish National Foundation. The JNF - Tree ( Jewish National Foundation) to celebrate the holiday. This is also done in keeping with the Hebrew scriptures that the people were to plant trees when they come to the land, and they were not to eat the fruit of the tree for 3 years. On the 4th year the fruit was to be an offering to God but on the 5th year it was permitted to eat the fruit. The Tu B Shvat also holds significance in that it falls at the same time of the year that it was considered the new year for calculating the age of the trees. Once that was determined a tithe was offered to the priest. In Keeping with this scriptual teaching the Jewish National Foundation plants trees throughout the country of Israel.
The Tu B' Shvat is a celebration of the new year of trees. In ancient times it was it was additionally said to be the time Moses began his sermon of the Torah. There are only a very few customs that are part of this Tu B' Shvat. One of the customs of the Tu B'Shvat is in planting trees. This too has a Hebrew scriptual basis, as it was stated in Leviticus 19:23 that the people of Israel were instructed to plant trees for food, but they must not eat of it until the fifth year.. Yet another custom still practiced today during Tu B' Shvat is in eating foods of the seven species. Culturally speaking, there were certain foods that were staples of the Israeli diet of ancient times. These foods were called the seven species and consisted of: olive oil, dates, persimmons, wheat, figs, barley and grapes
Dates were ground and pulverized extracting the honey like juices and used for sweetening. Persimmons were used in eating and making juice. The holiday of Tu B' Shvat is not mentioned, per say, in the Torah and provides only one small mention in the Mishna, where it is stated that it is the new year for trees. Today, the Jewish National Foundation plants trees in keepng with the Tu B' Shvat scriptual teachings.
The scriptual basis for the Hewbrew celebration of the Tu B' Shvat is founded on the combination of these facts regarding the celebration and customs of the Tu B' Shvat.
The Jewish National Foundation was founded in 1901as the result of a dream of a Viennese man name Theodor Hertzl. Through his dream the foundation grew and expanded to what is today. With a history that includes quick expansion after WW2, land purchases in the Ottaman Empire, controlled by Palestine as well as research. Finally, in 1905 the Jewish National Foundation purchased land located at the center of the country named Hulda.This land was bought for the unique and important purpose of planting olive groves in memory of THeodor Hertzl. THis momentous occasion was the forerunner of the JFk afforestation endeavors. In the 1980's the forestation expanded creating groves and lush forestation around both Jerusalem and Arava. In total 45,000 acres have been reforested in the Arava region. Today, the Jewish National Foundation , ( JNF) has a 100 + year old history in planting trees. In fact, they have planted over 250 million trees, built parks and dams, developed over 250,000 acres of land,and created over 1,000 parks for numerous communities. Additionally, they have reintroduced farming techniques used during biblical times to the people.
Children in Israel also are involved in the tree planting through the Jewish National Foundation. Children collect donations and these donations are given to the JNF ( Jewish National Foundation) for trees. Today there are more trees providing a wider variety of food than what were considered staple foods of ancient times. With each new Tu B' Shvat new trees are planted to renew the cycle of growth. By this traditional practice oxygen is provided to the atmosphere, areas of lands become fruitful and food is preserved for the next generations to come.
In a sense, the Tu B'Shvat has become for Israel something like the National Arbor Day of our own culture. The purpose of both the Jewish National Foundation and our own National Arbor day is to plant new tress. To restore growth lost through the years of wars and neglect and to preserve the natural environment for the betterment of society. By instilling these values in each new generation of society, the future of each generation is assured..THe Jewish National Foundation teaches conscientious stewardship of the lands to protect the lands and food sources for the generations yet to come.
Yet another custom while eating of the seven species is the blessings said before eating of the foods. The blessing is said before eating each fruit. This is substantiated in the Torah and is still practiced today at each new Tu B'Shvat. This is done to thank God for the bountiful blessing he provides durung the Tu B; Shvat. An ancient tradition founded on the scriptures of Deuteronomy 8:8 that teaches there two grains and five fruits which is the basis of the food blessings of the Tu B' Shvat.
The Tu B' Shvat is celebrated each year according to the Hebrew calender. According to the Hebrew Calender Tu B' Shvat is celebrated on Shvt 15, 5772 or in the English Calender translation; February 8, 2012. Today the Jewish National Foundation conducts ever changing projects throughout Israel to continue to bring man closer with nature. Continued planting of trees, water conservation, new innovative ways to use brackish water and river restoration are all projects conducted by the Jewish National Foundation. There is an ongoing continuous effort of solidifying the bond between man and nature.