Celebrating Trees: Happy Tu B'Shvat!
Today is Tu B’Shvat, the “Jewish New Year of the Trees.”
Each April, we celebrate Arbor Day, a celebration of all-things-trees that dates back to the 1970s. However, the sentiment behind Arbor Day can actually be traced back to rabbinic times. Talmudic scholarship sets aside the 15th day of the month of Shvat to honor our planet’s grandest plants. In Israel’s early days after World War II, it was a rallying point around which people rushed to put as many in the ground as possible. Their success in turning a desert environment into a lush green oasis (and in the process creating a thriving agricultural industry) is testament to our indebtedness to the tree.
In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg’s homage to trees comes in the form of PlaNYC, a signature element of which is an effort to add a million of them to our parks, streets and natural areas. Thanks to the dedication of the MillionTreesNYC team and our partners at the New York Restoration Project, we’re more than halfway towards that goal. Our spring and fall planting days over the last several years have become great ways for families and friends to breathe some fresh air while beautifying neighborhoods. However, while it might be a bit cold to plant trees right now, New Yorkers can still celebrate Tu B’Shvat by eating! Tradition dictates that Tu B’Shvat be a time for enjoying trees’ bounty and snacks like figs, dates, almonds and walnuts.
You can also use the occasion to express appreciation: renew your membership with the New York Restoration Project, TreesNY or one of our other partners; go on an Urban Park Ranger tree identification walk; or, simply take a moment to say “thanks” next time you pass by your favorite tree.
Edited from an article printed last year, written by Gary Rozman
More on Tu B’Shvat from Chabad.org:
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar—celebrated this year on Wednesday, February 8, 2012—is 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.
Legally, the “New Year for Trees” relates to the various tithes that are separated from produce grown in the Holy Land. These tithes differ 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.
We 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 we remember that “man is a tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20:19) and reflect on the lessons we can derive from our botanical analogue.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”