Tu B’Shvat- The New Year of the Trees


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The first Mishna in Rosh HaShana teaches that there are four new years:

1st of Nisan: The New Year for kings and festivals

1st of Elul: The New Year for the tithe of animals

1st of Tishrei: The New Year for Shmitin and Yovalot, for the planting of the vegetables


So far, three out of the four new years are on the first of the month.


What about the New Year for the trees?


Beit Shammai says: The1st of Shvat

Beit Hillel says: The15th of Shvat


As usual, we follow the ruling of Beit Hillel. However, what is the reason why we would celebrate a new year in the middle of the month?


According to the Meiri, the 15th of Shvat is the median date between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, since half of this period has already passed, the winter has abated and the cold has diminished and the formation of the fruits accelerates.


The Gemara in Bava Metzia 106b explains that there are actually six seasons:


1. The second half of Tishrei, Marcheshvan and the first half of Kislev is the planting season


2. The second half of Kislev, Tevet and the first half of Shvat is the winter season


3. The second half of Shvat, Adar and the first half of Nisan is the cold season


4. The second half of Nisan, Iyar and the first half of Sivan is the harvest season


5. The second half of Sivan, Tamuz and the first half of Av is the summer season


6. The second half of Av, Elul and the first half of Tishrei is the hot season


Tu B’Shvat (the 15th of Shvat) therefore starts the beginning of the cold season. Celebrating on the first of Shvat doesn’t make sense since it is still the winter.


All of these seasons are based on the Land of Israel. Thank God we have had a lot of rain the last few weeks as the winter season is supposed to be the rainy season, the time that the bulk of the rain should fall.


This week, I had the opportunity to plant a tree in honor of Tu B’Shvat at the Tayelet in Talpiot, just a few blocks from my home, with over 1000 young women who are studying in Israel for the year. It was a very moving experience for each and every one of us to be able to be part of the holiday that connects nature and the Land of Israel.