Tu B’Sh’vat

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps. 1:1-3).

Tu B’Sh’vat (lit. “15th of Sh’vat”) is a rabbinically ordained holiday also known as the “Festival of the New Year of Trees.” Though no biblical basis for this festival exists, Tu B’Sh’vat has long been important to the Jewish people.

With the Roman defeat of the Jewish nation and the corresponding destruction of the Temple in AD 70, Tu B’Sh’vat developed into a minor festival for liturgical purposes. Ashkenazic Jews in the Diaspora (the dispersion out of the land) developed a custom of eating fifteen different types of fruit on Tu B’Sh’vat, especially emphasizing those native to the land of Israel.

Since the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948, Tu B’Sh’vat has taken on an entirely new characteristic—that of Israel’s Arbor Day. Symbolizing the renewing and reclaiming of a deserted land, children across the country sing songs and help plant scores of trees in celebration of the festival.

The tree, a symbol of physical life, growth, and strength, also appears in the Bible to symbolize one who delights in God’s Word. We who are born-again believers have been planted in God’s vineyard and have a God-ordained obligation to reach out to Jewish friends and neighbors (Rom. 11:11). Though some natural branches have been broken off the olive tree, it is up to those who have been grafted in by the grace of God to reach out to the lost sheep of Israel so that they would not be cast off. God is able to graft them back in again!

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:1-5).