Why is caring for the environment emphasized on Tu BiShvat?

Answered by
George Robinson

Tu BiShvat is a minor festival whose provenance dates only to the time of the Second Temple. However, the kabbalists who clustered around the great fifteenth-century mystic Isaac Luria of Safed placed great weight on the holiday, creating new festivities, gatherings at which hymns were sung, fruit (particularly carob) was eaten, and four cups of wine were taken (as in the Passover seder). Many Sephardic communities still engage in these Tu BiShvat rites.

With the advent of the environmental movement and the focus of modern Israelis on the greening of their nation, Tu BiShvat has taken on more importance in the last fifty years. In Israel, schoolchildren will go out to plant new trees on this day. Diaspora Jews will try to partake of as many as possible of the seven fruits and grains cited in Deuteronomy 8:8 as native to the Holy Land: "wheat, barley, vines, figs, pomegranates, olive trees, and (date) honey." Many ecology-minded Jews have created new Tu BiShvat seders and have followed in the footsteps of Luria and his fellow mystics in extolling this holiday's importance.