New Year for Trees

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Hillel (c. 60—9 bc)


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The minor festival that falls on 15 Shevat, known as Tu Bi-Shevat (from the letters tet (9) and vav (6) = 15). In the Mishnah (Rosh Ha-Shanah 1: 1), 15 Shevat is said to be, according to the House of Hillel, the New Year for Trees. This means that the tithes for fruit of the tree had to be given from each year's growth separately and it was consequently necessary to determine when the new year begins for this purpose. Most of the rains had fallen before this date so that fruit that blossomed after the date belonged to the next year for tithing purposes. In the Mishnah the New Year for Trees is not a festival at all, but it became a minor festival chiefly under the influence of the mystics of Safed in the sixteenth century. In the State of Israel, especially in the kibbutzim, Tu Bi-Shevat is celebrated as an agricultural festival. Generally, nowadays, the festival is taken as an opportunity for encouraging children to give thanks to God for the growth of trees and flowers.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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