Do you stare in awe at beautiful trees?
Do you love the juicy burst of pomegranate seeds?
Are you passionate about caring for God’s world?
The term Tu B’Shevat is simply the date on the Hebrew calendar on which this holiday occurs: the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Shevat. Tu is the transliteration of the Hebrew numeral for fifteen, and b’ means “in” in Hebrew. In America, we do the same thing when we refer to our national Independence Day by its date, “the fourth of July.”
Tu B’Shevat takes place on different days on the Gregorian calendar. Check our messianic calendar to stay up to date.
In essence, Tu B’Shevat is the new year for trees. This idea may seem strange. However, the secular world also has different “years” for different spheres of life, like the academic year or fiscal year. Tu B’Shevat is sometimes known as Rosh Hashanah La’llanot (New Year for the Trees) or Jewish Arbor Day. Still, what does New Year’s mean for a plant? While Tu B’shevat does not appear in Scripture, it has a biblical basis.
Biblical Basis for Tu B’Shevat
Leviticus 19:23–25 reveals why there is a new year for trees:
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 Lord. In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the Lord your God.
Tu B’Shevat marked the new year for agricultural tithes. As the passage above explains, the Israelites were not to eat a tree’s fruit during the first harvest. After three years, they would set aside the crop as an offering to the Lord. Only in the fifth year could Israel eat the fruit. When Tu B’shevat came, trees would be considered one year older.
One symbol of Tu B’Shevat is the shivat haminim or seven species. These are seven plant products that Scripture lists as plentiful in the land of Israel: “a land of wheat and barley, of vines [grapes] and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8). Many people celebrate Tu B’Shevat by eating these foods and other fruits.
Tu B’Shevat Customs
Tu B’Shevat customs vary by region and form of Judaism. Environmental activism is a common part of Tu B’Shevat today, especially in Reform Judaism. Jewish people who are part of the Reform movement do not think that the Bible is God’s Word or that Israel is God’s chosen people. They may attend synagogue and celebrate the holidays, but it is more for cultural purposes than religious ones. In politics, they are generally liberal-leaning.
So, Reform Jewish people tend to focus less on the biblical basis for Tu B’Shevat and more on the principle of caring for the earth. On Tu B’Shevat, they may do something to care for the planet, such as plant a tree or clean trash off a beach.
More religious Jewish people eat extra fruit on this holiday, especially grapes, olives, dates, figs, and pomegranates. They thank God with this blessing: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.” Some who are more mystical may ponder how humans are like trees. One might, for instance, compare a tree’s roots to a person’s faith in God. Both are foundational and essential for living.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Jewish mystics created a seder (order) for Tu B’Shevat. A seder usually refers to a Passover meal and liturgy, which tells the exodus story. Tu B’Shevat seders involve eating various fruits and celebrating the wonder of the natural world.
How Should Followers of Messiah Think about Tu B’Shevat?
Here are a few ways that a follower of Messiah can think about Tu B’Shevat.
Good Fruit, Bad Fruit
Trees certainly are a significant image in Scripture, including the New Testament. Our rabbi Jesus, for instance, compared people to trees in that they both produce fruit:
So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:17–20)
Tu B’Shevat can be a call to examine ourselves. What kind of fruit are we bearing? Our fruit can take the form of words or actions. They are external signs that reveal the state of our hearts—whether good or bad. Constantly spending money on frivolous items might be an indicator that one struggles with “the love of money” (Hebrews 13:5).
This habit may also be rooted in a deeper issue, including selfishness (in this case, only seeing money in terms of personal benefit) and insecurity (attempting to prove one’s worth through money). If we discover bad fruit, we should confess and ask the Lord to help us. We can be confident that if we trust in the Messiah, He will forgive us (Romans 8:34).
The Earth is the Lord’s
Tu B’Shevat reminds us that the earth belongs to God, and we are its stewards. King David wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1). This fact should give us a humble mindset. The earth’s resources do not ultimately belong to us. God made them for humans to use but not to exploit. Scripture presents a vision of wholeness that embraces the entire planet (Isaiah 11:6–9).
Universal peace will only come when Yeshua returns, but we should still do what we can to support the earth’s well-being. With its focus on trees, Tu B’Shevat can be an occasion to garden, pick up trash, or donate to help an endangered species.
Thank the Lord for His Provision
Tu B’Shevat is an opportunity to thank God for His provision. In the rush of daily life, it can be easy to forget that we rely on God to live. Pausing to thank the Lord for a simple pleasure like a juicy grape or pomegranate fosters a lifestyle of gratitude. Paul wrote that “all things hold together” in Yeshua (Colossians 1:17).
If He did not sustain the universe in this way, we could not exist: The sun would not shine, plants could not grow or produce fruit, and we could not eat. These natural processes only happen because God designed them and enables them to continue. Tu B’Shevat invites us to look beyond the challenges we face and recall how richly God has blessed us. Savoring a relatively small blessing inspires us to thank Yeshua for the many gifts He gives us. The breath in our lungs, the people in our lives, and the hope in our hearts are all possible because of Him.
Celebrating the new year for trees—Tu B’Shevat—may not sound like much. Still, it can be immensely encouraging and fulfilling.
 Eliezer Wenger, “Tu BiShvat Customs,” Chabad.Org, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/260798/jewish/Tu-BiShvat-Customs.htm.
 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and Yanki Tauber, “The Human Tree,” Chabad.Org, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2775/jewish/The-Human-Tree.htm.
 “Have a Tu BiShvat Seder,” ReformJudaism.Org, accessed January 8, 2022, https://reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/tu-bishvat/have-tu-bishvat-seder.