The New Year for Trees and Their Significance: Tu B’shevat 2019

treeThroughout 2019, posts will come out that celebrate Jewish and Israeli special days. Today is “Tu B’Shevat, the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep, and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

Trees play a significant role in the Jewish Bible / Old Testament. Pomegranates have always been related to God’s people multiplying, thriving and be successful and another strong example is the fig tree.

  • Micah 4:4 “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”
  • Joel 1:12 “The grapevines have dried up, and the fig trees have withered. The pomegranate trees, palm trees, and apple trees–all the fruit trees–have dried up. And the people’s joy has dried up with them.”

Botannically, the fig tree is a keystone species and is eaten by over 1200 kinds of animals and is also thought to have been a critical food source for people. So as the fig tree flourishes, or dies back, so does the prosperity and safety of God’s people, Isra’el.

Another beautiful example of how in God’s Word, trees are symbols of peace with the Lord, times of rest and prosperity, comes from Isaiah:

“You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Isaiah 55:12-13

eating watermelonHistorically, the “new year” for trees related to the various tithes (offerings or in some cases, taxes) that were separated from produce grown in the Holy Land. These tithes differed from year to year, in the seven-year shemittah cycle. The point at which a budding fruit is considered to belong to the next year of the cycle is the 15th of Shevat.

Jewish people mark the day of Tu B’Shevat by eating fruit, particularly from the kinds that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. On this day people remember that “man is a tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20:19), and reflect on the lessons we can derive from our botanical analogue.”

Historical Information Source:

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