What does Tu Bishvat mean?
The name of the day often referred to as the birthday of the trees is actually the date on which it is celebrated. Tu (ט״ו) is the gematria or alphabetic equivalent for 15 and Shevat is the name of a Hebrew month. Tu Bishvat means the 15th of Shevat!
Why do the trees need a birthday?
The Torah says that the fruit from trees should not be picked during the first 3 years of its planting. Keeping track of the birthday of each tree would be very complicated for a farmer! The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 1:1) states that the 15th of Shevat was chosen to be the birthday for all of the trees, simplifying the process of knowing the age of each tree and when its fruit can be harvested.
Why was the 15th of Shevat chosen as the new year for the trees?
Although many parts of the world are still in the thick of winter when Tu Bishvat rolls around, in Israel, spring is beginning at that time. The almond tree, one of the earliest trees to bloom, begins to burst with flowers, marking the end of winter.
How is Tu Bishvat celebrated today?
While Tu Bishvat is not on the level of a full holiday, many people participate in traditions that have developed over the years.
  • There is a Kabbalistic tradition of participating in a Tu Bishvat seder modeled after the Passover seder. Although there isn’t a set text for the seder, drinking four cups of wine and eating different types of fruits is commonly part of a Tu Bishvat seder. Tu Bishvat seders can be very creative and several examples are found on Sefaria.
  • For some, it is traditional to eat dried fruits or fruits grown in Israel on Tu Bishvat.
  • Many people plant trees in Israel on Tu Bishvat or in honor of the day. Environmentalism and reforestation fit into the theme of the day.
  • Tu Bishvat is often viewed as the Jewish “Earth Day” with a variety of environmental activities and learning scheduled for the day.
Where can I find Tu Bishvat materials on Sefaria?
From traditional Jewish texts to modern Tu Bishvat seders, there are plenty of Tu Bishvat materials to find on Sefaria.