• The name is the Hebrew date :) – 15th of Shvat.
  • In 2016, Tu B'Shvat starts on the evening of Sunday, January 24 and ends the following evening.
  • Why "Tu"? In the numerical designations of Hebrew letters, tet ט = 9 plus vav ו = 6, for a total of 15, which is written as טו and pronounced "tu". The reason we use these two letters instead of yod י for 10 plus hei ה for 5 is because that is rabbinically prohibited (since it's an abbreviated name for God). [If you would like to see more about numerical values of letters and words, look at the Worthwhile Info and Let's Get Busy sections in our Rosh HaShana packet :) ].
  • This is the only one of our four new years to fall on a 15th instead of the 1st of a month. [See the Hillel and Shammai discussion in our "Overview" section.]
  • This is a regular work and business day. The only difference is that among more observant Jews, no penitential prayers would be said due to this being a festive occasion.


Planting tree saplings is a Tu B'Shvat custom
  • In Israel (and increasingly everywhere) it is customary to plant tree saplings. Many schools, kibbutzim and other institutions do planting outings and ceremonies here. Overseas, many donate money for the planting of trees here, especially via the Jewish National Fund (JNF), aka Keren Kayemet LeIsrael. As the first start of spring carries inaugural symbolism, many institutions, including the Knesset [Israeli parliament], have also chosen Tu B'Shvat as a fitting date for the official laying of a cornerstone.
  • Another custom involving planting trees is called netia shel simcha, or "joyous planting", where one plants a tree to commemorate a happy occasion, such as the birth of a child. (Sometimes the wood might also be used for chupah poles down the line in the child's later marriage). Netia shel simcha continues today in Israel as well.
  • Tu B'Shvat is increasingly associated with being not only an Arbor Day, but as a broader, very relevant environmental consciousness-raising day.

Generally speaking, there is a longtime practice of eating more fruits on this day, especially those associated with Israel to re-strengthen bonds. From Deuteronomy 8:8 this is taken to mean grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Almonds are also a traditional favorite, since this tree is usually the very first to bloom.

From early diaspora times developed the custom of eating dried fruit, since one couldn't get fresh fruit at this time of year in most climes. Even in a modern age of more imported fresh fruits, the custom has stuck and gift baskets of dried fruits abound in the shuks in Israel around this time as well.

Tu B'Shvat seder table with dried fruits

Charuv, aka "bokser" in Yiddish or raw carob, has also been traditionally handed out for this chag. In Israel, it's actually ready to eat when falling off the tree in fall, but it stores well for an extended period of time. This historically made it ideal for long travel times, like to bring a taste of Israel overseas in time for Tu B'Shvat.

According to the Talmud, it would take 70 years for a carob tree to bear fruit. In actuality, depending on how and where you cultivate it, this might take 3-8 years in more ideal conditions. So even given poorer and more natural circumstances, seven decades is a bit of a stretch. But to be fair, a ten or more year wait is no small matter either (even more so if elderly). So planting a carob tree can be taken as an example of patience, altruism, "giving back" and thinking ahead for future generations [see a simple retelling of the tale of Honi here].

This feasting on fruits, which started in medieval times, later progressed to seder rituals -starting around the 16th century with Kabbalists in Tzfat [Safed]. Some follow the ritual from the text "Pri Etz Hadar", or "The Fruit of the Goodly Tree". This includes partaking from three groupings (each containing ten fruits and nuts) with certain corresponding physical and abstract attributes, as well as drinking four cups of wine. But there are many seder variations out there nowadays, as this is not a set but rather flexible kind of event. [We've included a few online haggadah samples in our Links section.]

  • Back to the etrog??? Here is a nice little linkage: Among some Chasidim, it is customary to pray at this time for a lovely etrog [citron] for the next Sukkot holiday. Further, the jam that some make out of leftover etrogim after the previous Sukkot would now be eaten on Tu B'Shvat.
  • The numerical value of the letters of ilan אילן , a word for "tree", is 91. On this basis, as well as it being a time of judgment for trees, some make a tzedaka [charity] donation involving this amount on Tu B'Shvat.


Blessed are you... who creates the fruit of the tree
  • For eating fruit of a tree:
    ברוך אתה ה', אלהינו מלך העולם, בורא פרי העץ.
    Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheynu melech ha-olam, borey pri ha-etz.
    Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.
  • For eating a new fruit as well as eating a particular fruit for the first time this season:
    ברוך אתה ה', אלהינו מלך העולם, שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה.
    Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheynu melech ha-olam, shehecheyanu, ve-kiyemanu ve-higianu lazman ha-ze.
    Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has given us life, and sustained us and enabled us to reach this time.
  • If one eats a fair amount of these fruits of Israel on this day - grapes, olives, dates, figs or pomegranates - the more observant add a blessing afterwards called Al Ha-aretz Ve-al Hape-orot which you can find here on Chabad's website.