Tu B’Shevat is the day in the Jewish calendar that marks the New Year for trees. In 2025 Tu B’Shevat begins in the evening of Wednesday 12 February and ends at nightfall on Thursday 13 February. The name ‘Tu B’Shevat’ literally means “the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat”, so the name of the festival is actually its date. There are no restrictions on work activities.
The idea of a New Year for trees has significance in the Torah’s agricultural laws. It is the start of the fiscal year for the tithing of fruit, which is a Biblical requirement for fruit grown in Israel. It is also a great time to appreciate the wonderful natural world that God created for us, and our responsibility to look after it.
Spring is on its way!
Tu B’Shevat symbolises renewal and growth. It occurs in the heart of winter, at a time of the year when most of the rainfall in the Land of Israel has already fallen. The trees are bare, but the sap has started to form. The earliest-blossoming trees in Israel are waking up from their winter sleep and are beginning a new cycle of fruit production.
We all have periods of winter in our lives, times of darkness when the world seems bleak. Tu B’Shevat reminds us that just like trees, our lives move in cycles. Even in the darkest times, we are reminded to have patience and trust that Spring, with its warmer, fruitful days, is just around the corner.
In Israel, it is common for schoolchildren to mark the day by planting new trees, a custom initiated by the pioneers in pre-state Israel in the early 20th century.
A wide-spread custom is to celebrate this day by eating fruit, especially the special fruits for which the Torah praises the Land of Israel: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (see Devarim/Deuteronomy 8:8). Some people have the custom to eat 15 different fruits, because Tu B’Shevat falls on the 15th of the month.
Some people celebrate Tu B’Shevat with a Kabbalistic Seder.
The Tu B’Shevat Seder, a ritual established by the 16th century kabbalists in Tzfat (Safed), is an enjoyable way to mark this minor festival. Rabbi Isaac Luria (known as the Arizal, 1534-1572) and his followers would gather to feast on fruit, drink wine and read a book of extracts from The Torah, Talmud and Zohar (Jewish mysticism), which refer to God’s presence in nature, trees and agricultural produce. This Seder is modelled on the Pesach Seder.
The Seder involves enjoying the fruits of the trees, particularly those native to the Land of Israel and contemplating important lessons about our lives and our world.
Since the Tu B’Shevat Seder is not a requirement in Jewish law (unlike the Pesach Seder), there is plenty of room for flexibility and creativity.
Cup One: Pour a glass of pure white wine. This represents the cold winter months. It is symbolic of how vulnerable and fragile our lives are. Fruits and nuts with hard, inedible skin or shell are eaten, such as pomegranate, coconut, oranges and almonds. Just as the hard shell protects the fragile fruit inside, we appreciate God’s protection in our lives.
Cup Two: A glass of light rosé, or white wine with a few drops of red wine, is poured. Spring holds the promise of new growth and the transition from cold to warmth. Fruits with inedible stones or seeds are eaten, like dates, plums, olives, apricots or mango. Through these seeds, we see the miracle of birth and renewal.
Cup Three: A glass of dark rosé, or mostly red wine with some white wine is poured. Here we see the fullness of life revealed in the summer months and we eat entirely edible fruits such as figs, raisins, grapes and berries.
Cup Four: A full-bodied red wine is drunk, symbolic of the autumn of life and of ‘The World to Come’, a world that transcends the physical and reaches the true essence of our being. Here we smell fragrant flowers and spices (cinnamon and cloves). Herbal teas may be served with dessert at this point.
Next year in Jerusalem!