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Tu bi’Shvat

Originally not a festival at all, Tu bi’Shvat was merely a date on the Jewish calendar, literally “the 15th day of Shvat”. This was the date on which the age of trees was calculated for the purposes of tithing and taxing. Thus, in Judaic sources it came to be known as the New Year for the Trees. In Biblical times, Tu bi’Shvat was the day farmers brought the first fruits of their trees to The Temple in Jerusalem. When The Temple was destroyed and the Jewish People were exiled from the Land of Israel, Tu bi’Shvat lost much of its original significance, only to be rediscovered in the Middle Ages by Jewish mystics who imbued it with deeper symbolic meaning. Tu bi’Shvat Seder Meal was established by the Kabbalists of Safed, modeled after the Passover Seder and featuring the seven species of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and dates, the staples of the Biblical Period. The custom spread across the Diaspora and for generations Jews all over the world marked the day by eating fruits from the Land of Israel, mainly dried ones like figs and dates, raisins and almonds. Thus, Tu bi’Shvat took on another meaning: the longing for the Promised Land.
The holiday was further transformed in modern Israel and it is now a day on which tree saplings are planted. As far as food is concerned − every Jewish holiday must have some culinary aspect − Israelis still feast on dried fruit, even though fresh fruits abound even at the height of winter.

from "The Book of New Israeli Food"

Photos: Eilon Paz (from "The Book of New Israeli Food")




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