Jacob Schor ND, FABNO
|Photo by Gilabrand via Wikipedia, used|
under the Creative Commons License.
The 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, or Tu B’Shevat, begins at sunset on February 7th this year and marks the Jewish New Year for trees. In Biblical times, knowing the age of a tree was important because the fruit from a tree less than three years of age was considered inedible. This date was set to approximate when the earliest blooming trees in Israel ended their winter dormancy, but during the Middle Ages, Tu B’shvat grew to be an esoteric holiday.
In the middle of the 16th century, the renowned Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed and his disciples began to celebrate the day with a ritual meal. Each of the fruits of Israel was assigned symbolic meanings to represent concepts from the Kabbalah (the image of a tree is often used to represent the spiritual realms of the universe) and they were eaten in a ritualized order with the appropriate blessings and with adequate quantities of wine. It was believed that this would bring human beings and the world closer to spiritual perfection.