In Leviticus it says "And when you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the L-rd. And in the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its fruit may increase for you; I am the L-rd your G-d." (Lev 19:23-25, NASB)

Tu B'Shevat (which means the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat) is not a Biblical holiday, but was declared to be a special day by the Rabbis so that there would be a clear marker to tell when a tree was planted rather than having to remember all the individual planting dates. By having one common day, it is then easy to know how old any of your fruit trees are on an annual basis. By picking a day in the coldest part of the year, this is a time when the sap in the tree will be at its lowest point and no growth will have taken place in the new growing cycle, so it makes a good division between active years of a tree's life.

To make the text more understandable, it was ruled that if for the first three years the fruit is forbidden, it means that you can not use it or profit from it in any way, although the leaves and branches are not included in this prohibition. The text states that you are not allowed to eat the fruit and the Rabbis have said that you are also not allowed to smell it, sell it or feed it to animals. Preferably the fruit is to be burned but, if this is not possible, then you are to bury it.

Tu B'Shevat is a day when it is traditional to plant trees and eat fruit from Israel, as well as other fruit you have not eaten that year. It is also a festive time when people thank G-d for the trees, fruit and foliage around them.


Here are some ideas of things that you can do to make Tu B'Shevat a special day:

  • This Tu B'Shevat, why don't you buy some unusual fruit (from trees), maybe try to find some from Israel, and eat it. Here is a blessing to say before you eat it, to thank G-d for it:

    Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, borei p'ri ha-eitz

    Blessed are You O L-rd, our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

  • Look around you and find some special plant or tree that you think is beautiful and thank G-d for it and also the wonderful variety of greenery around us.

  • Trees can have unusual and wonderful shapes, even if they don't have leaves on - as most don't around this time of year in England. Start a scrapbook or collection of trees (not just fruit trees) that you see and like throughout the year, decorating it with stickers, bark and leaf rubbings, drawings, poems, and some writing about what kind of tree it is with the date you found it and where you saw it

  • Choose a tree near your house, in your favourite place or in an orchard and keep a record with pictures of what 'your' tree looks like throughout the year, writing down the dates of when you took the pictures.

  • Use rubbings of tree leaves or bark to make a Tu B'Shevat card to give to your parents, grandparents, sibling or friend.

    Bark rubbings: These are done outside, on your chosen tree. Curl your paper (white paper is best) around the trunk of the tree at a comfortable height and angle, because once you have started rubbing it is not a good idea to move your paper. Taking a coloured wax crayon, rub hard (although being careful not to tear your paper or snap your crayon!) on the paper over the trunk of the tree until you have a tracing of the bark pattern. Then you take the paper off and stick it wherever you want it in your project.

    Leaf rubbings: It is best to do this on a clean, flat surface, making sure that there are no obvious bumps - for instance, no crumbs left over from breakfast! Place your chosen leaf on a clean piece of paper or board (nothing that is going to matter being pressed down) and put whatever paper you want your rubbing on (white paper is best), over the top of the leaf. Next you take a coloured wax crayon and rub over and around the leaf shape underneath your paper, being careful not to tear the paper by pressing too hard. When you have got an outline of your leaf, lift you piece of paper off, cut around your picture (leaving a ¼ inch margin around the outside of it) and stick it wherever you want it in your project.

  • Fruit Orchard

    This is a game for one or more persons. Take the phrase "Fruit Orchard" and try to find as many other words as you can with the letters in those two words. The words have to be 3 or more letters and you can only use each letter once in a word (for instance "tuft" is not allowed at there is only one "t" in "Fruit Orchard"). Place or people names are not allowed, although Bible book names are permitted.

    If you have two or more players, have a set amount of time (for instance 2 or 3 minutes) for each "round". Start with 3 letter words and when the allotted time has run out, compare words and each word that no-one else has got counts as one point to the person who wrote it down. Then move onto 4 letter words and so on, until you have found as many as you can. Or, try and find the most words that begin with "f" then "r" and so on. Again, each person gets a point if they wrote down a word no-one else had. The person with the most points is the winner.

    Here are some words to start you off... ford, tar, arch, draft.

Copyright 2008 Met - T. Allen

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