CHAPTER THREE

TU BSHVAT THE NEW YEAR OF TREES

1  BACKGROUND

Tu B’Shvat is a minor holiday which falls on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat. The name of the festival literally means the fifteenth of Shvat. The New Year of the Trees occurs on this Hebrew date. This festival expresses a deep link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. It is marked by the eating of nuts and fruits, and planting trees or donating funds to the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet L”Israel) so that they may plant trees in Israel. Tu B'Shvat also focuses on environmental issues, and in some communities a “Tu B’Shvat seder” is held.

 

Tu B’Shvat is not mentioned in the Bible. It is first mentioned in the Mishnah, which was completed circa 200 and is that part of the Talmud which contains the Jewish laws handed down since the time of the Bible. Tractate Rosh Hashanah 1:1 states that there are four new years. The four new years are the 1st of Nissan used in biblical times to date the reigns of kings, the 1st of Elul marking the new year for the tithe of cattle, the 1st of Tishrei or Rosh Hashanah and the 15th of Shvat or the New Year of Trees. Today only the latter two have any observances associated with them.

 

The question as to why the New Year of the Trees falls in the month of Shvat is also answered in the same Talmud Tractate (Rosh HaShana).  By the middle of the month of Shvat the majority of the average annual rainfall has already fallen. Therefore, the trees have already started to grow, and this is the time when fruits begin forming on the trees. In Israel the 15th of Shvat is the day when new sap traditionally starts to rise in the trees. It is a time of rejuvenation, the beginning of Spring and everything is green.

 

Tu B’Shvat is an agricultural holiday marking the date from which to count the age of the tree. In ancient times farmers were taxed on the fruit they produced between one Tu B’Shvat and the next. The date also related to the maturation of the fruit tree. According to Leviticus 19:23-25 we are not allowed to eat the new fruit until the fourth year of its development.

 

One of the major customs associated with the New Year of Trees is tree planting. In Israel school children are taken to established and newly developed forests to plant trees. In the Diaspora money is collected and sent to Israel for the intended purpose of planting trees. This custom of contributing money for tree planting was initiated by the Zionist teachers at the beginning of the twentieth century, in order to emphasize the Jewish roots in Israel.

 

An ancient custom in Israel was to plant a tree in honour of a new born baby. The tree was planted on Tu B’Shvat following the child's birth. If the baby was a boy, a cedar was planted. If the baby was a girl, a cypress was planted. As the children grew so did the trees. When the children got married the wood from the trees built their chupah (wedding canopy). As the wood from the two trees were joined in the chupah so were the bride and groom in their marriage.

 

Another custom associated with Tu B’Shvat is the eating of dried fruits from Israel. This emphasizes the link with the Land of Israel. There are varied customs regarding eating fruit on Tu B'Shvat. Some have the custom of eating the seven species of fruits that grow in Israel. Based on a verse in Deuteronomy (8:8) these fruits are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. In some communities it is the tradition to eat 15 (Tu) different kinds of fruits.

 

The idea of a Tu B’Shvat seder goes back to the late 16th century Kabbalists of Safed who saw mystical symbols in trees and fruits. The idea was not adopted  by the Ashkenazi communities although some Sephardi communities did embrace it. It has been revived with the Zionist movement. Today many kibbutzim hold a Tu B’Shvat seder. In Neot Kedumim, an open-air educational institution near Jerusalem, the vegetation and agriculture of the Bible have been recreated on the hillsides there. They have also published a Tu B’Shvat Haggadah.

 

The Tu B'Shvat seder is loosely based on the Passover seder. As in the Passover seder, four glasses of wine are drunk. However, in each glass the colour of the wine is varied. The first cup is all white wine to symbolize the dead of Winter. The second is mostly white mixed with some red to mark the start of Spring. The third is mostly red mixed with some white symbolizing the developing Spring season, and the fourth is all red wine symbolizing full-bodied Spring. A good part of the Tu B'Shvat seder liturgy is composed of excerpts mentioning trees from the Bible, Talmud, and other sources.

 

It is important that you read the introduction in order to put the activities that follow in their correct framework.

 

LEXICAL ITEMS

almond, bark, bough, blossom, branch, bud, fruit, leaf, leaves, roots, tree, trunk

 

Ideas for different levels

Grade 4: Word search 1 together with word bank. Find words and write at least 3 sentences using some of the words found.

Grade 5: Unscramble the words and find them in word search 2. Pupils can use the words in sentences.

Grade 6: Word search 3 to find different types of trees.

 

Activity      Tu B’Shvat Word Search 1

 

In the word search below you have words going in all directions:

                                                         There are 10 things all related to  

                                                          the title.       

 

 

                                               TREE WORDS

 

 

H A P Y S S M S R S

B A L T L O P E R F

V A O M S T K V T V

W O R S O N O A U H

R F O K U N U E W B

E L A R W B D L R N

B E T E Y H U A F Y

Q M R E L J N D K F

Y O T T U C V L Q T

K M P Y H N B D Q U

 

 

 

Word bank : almond, bark, blossom, branch, bud, leaf, leaves, roots, tree, trunk

 

Activity        Tu B’Shvat Word Search 2

 

Unscramble the following words related to trees, then find them in the word search below.

 

1. abkr         __________                 2. hguob    __________

3. soomlbs  __________                  4. abchnr   __________

5. ubd          __________                 6. iufrt        __________

7.      feal         __________                  8. ortos      __________

8.      erte         __________               10. knrtu       __________

 

In the word search below these 10 words go in all directions:

 

 

                        

TREE WORDS

 

N R K H B K B L T J

U V F T G L O E I H

L S R O O U S A U B

W E I S G T O F R R

E K S B O V Q B F Z

I O Y O A Y L Y G Q

M U R X N R T W O B

H C N A R B K S P Z

T R U N K L D U B A

J R N P Q C N Z U C

 

 

 

Answers:  bark, bough, blossom, branch, bud, fruit, leaf, roots, tree, trunk. 

 

 

 

Activity         Tu B’Shvat Word Search 3

 

In the word search below you have 14 names of trees going in all directions:

 

 

 

TREES

 

G T N S B J V R C S Q G I F Z G L Y

O F X Z P W O F K D B X D W H K K Y

S G P I N E N W G B L L N U X R R R

Y P Y Y F Z M P X R R O N F F O T F

V B Q V M X S A S J M S D F I Y D R

K D N D N Q S U P E G R C E R N V E

B D J F J C G U L L E K L B Z I T T

Z A A K B W Q K T D E B U D S A L M

T A K F U A N H Q L R N Z P D Z O M

R F S O P U C S Y C D V B O Q Z V R

P C O P Q T Q C U L F C O R A N G E

O E L F G W H V E A U I V U O P K U

P E O L K C Z G L D B I O A L A Y Q

L K X D Z V C M J C A H K L V L D E

A D B J Z R O Y M R P R A O I M Z N

R M C A K N U F Q A B M O U T V E I

D M A A D O Z M C I B L V H R H E K

M N Y P K N P P S Z N J C Y K N H S

 

 

 

 

Word bank:  Almond, apple, cedar, date, fig, fir, lemon, maple, oak, olive, orange, palm, pine, poplar

 

 

3  SONGS

Ten green leaves (Tune: Ten Green Bottles)

 

There were ten green leaves hanging on the tree

And if one green leaf would accidentally fall

There would be nine green leaves hanging on the tree.

 

There were nine green leaves hanging on the tree

And if one green leaf would accidentally fall

There would be eight green leaves hanging on the tree.

 

There were eight green leaves hanging on the tree

And if one green leaf would accidentally fall

There would be seven green leaves hanging on the tree.

 

(Continue in this manner – 7/6; 6/5; 5/4; 4/3; 3/2; 2/1)

 

There was one green leaf hanging on the tree

And if one green leaf would accidentally fall

There would be no green leaves hanging on the tree.

 

The Almond Trees are White (Tune: äù÷ãéä ôåøçú )

 

The almond trees are white,

The sun is shining bright.

Singing birds from every dome

Tell us Tu-b’Shvat has come.

The holiday of the trees.

 
A Song for The New Year For Trees

 

There was a Tree

There was a tree, a pretty little tree,

The prettiest tree you ever did see,

The limb on the tree, the tree in a hole

The hole in the ground,

And the green grass grew all around, all around,

And the green grass grew all around.

 

And on this limb, there was a bough…

And on this bough there was a branch…

And on this branch there was a twig…

And on this twig there was a nest…

And in this nest there was a bird…

And on this bird there was a feather…

The prettiest feather you ever did see

The feather on the bird, the bird in the nest…

 

The Green Beans Grew All Around

 (Tune: The Green Grass Grew All Around )

 

There was a hole (repeat)

In the middle of the ground. (repeat)

The prettiest hole (repeat)

That you ever did see. (repeat)

Well, a hole's in the ground

And the green beans grew all around and around

And the green beans grew all around!

 

Well, in this hole (repeat)

There was a seed. (repeat)

The prettiest seed (repeat)

That you ever did see.

Well, a seed in the hole

And a hole in the ground

And the green beans grew all around and around

And the green beans grew all around!

 

Well, from this seed

There came a plant.

The prettiest plant

You ever did see.

Well, a plant from the seed

And a seed in the hole

And a hole in the ground

And the green beans grew all around and around

And the green beans grew all around!

 

4  ACTIVITIES

Title:  Fruits galore.  

Level: Grade 3.

Materials:  Fruits – collect fruits or pictures of fruits (figs, grapes, dates, apples, oranges, olives, pomegranates, bananas.)

Aims:

-to teach lexical items of fruits

Description:

Begin by asking the pupils some basic questions about the festival (What festival falls on the fifteenth of Shvat? What do we do on this festival? ) After you have elicited the fact that we eat fruits on this day present the lexical items. Revise them several times and then ask for a volunteer. The volunteer has to get at least 5 of the items correct when asked "What is this?” Several pupils can be asked to volunteer to be tested in this way. 

Have the pupils divide their page into four and draw four of the items. Use these pages to play bingo with the pupils.

 

Title:  Family tree.

Level: Grade 4/5.

Materials: Family tree outline (optional), flashcards of family members (e.g. Mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle)

Aims:

-to re-enter and review lexical items connected to the family.

Description:

Teacher explains that there are many different types of trees, and elicits different names of trees. If nobody comes up with “family trees” teacher writes it on the blackboard and asks pupils to explain what it is. (A family tree is a list of family history and relatives.) Teacher asks pupils to give the names of people in a family. Words such as grandparents, parents (mother, father), siblings (brother, sister) and extended family members (e.g. aunt, uncle ) should be listed on the board in family tree format.  Flashcards are useful here.

Pupils then draw or receive a family tree to complete.

 

Title:  Tree parts.

Level: Grade 4/5.

Materials:  Flashcards of the different parts of a tree (bark, root, leaf, tree), picture of a tree, cards with extra activities.

Aims:

-to teach the lexical items related to a tree (bark, roots, leaf, branch, twig, trunk, flower, blossom)

-to have the pupils use the lexical items in writing.

Description:

Present the different lexical items orally. (Show picture or item and have pupils repeat after you). Point to the items and have pupils supply the correct name. (This can be done as a team game) Have pupils come to the blackboard and write the names of the items.

Have pupils copy the list into their portfolios and illustrate them. As an extra activity or for those who finish quickly have the pupils choose at least one of the ideas on the activity card. (Tree things to do)

 

 

Activity cards. Make copies of the following list of ideas and stick them on card. They can be laminated and reused from year to year.

 

Tree things to do:

1.      Make up your own word search using the words we learnt today.

 

2.      Make up a crossword puzzle using the words we learnt today.

 

3.      In a paragraph describe a tree. Try and use the words we learnt today.

 

4.      Write a poem about a tree.

 

 

Title: Quiz time.  

Level: Grade 5/6.

Materials:  A copy of the quiz questions.

Aims:

 -to practise writing complete sentences.

 -to review knowledge related to the festival.

Description:

Play Hangman with the name of the festival, elicit the name of the festival, or simply write the name on the blackboard.

Brainstorm for associations and vocabulary related to the festival.

Tell your pupils you are going to see how much they know and hand out the question sheet. You can have them work individually, in pairs or in groups. Tell them that they must write the answers in complete sentences. If you feel the students will have difficulty answering the questions you can provide them with the clue sheet below.

Go over the answers and have the pupils place their work in their portfolios.

 

a vineyard  /  an olive branch  /  exactly one month / fifteen  /

four  /  in Eden  /  in the sixteenth century in Safed /  minor   /plant trees and  eat dried fruits  / the 15th of Shvat  /the almond tree /  the JNF (Jewish National Fund)   /the tree of knowledge and  the tree of good and evil  / Yom Kippur, because it is a fast day.

 

 

Activity

The New Year of Trees Quiz sheet.

How many questions can you get right? Write the answers in complete sentences.

  1. When is the New Year of trees?

  2. Where was the first garden planted on earth?

  3. What is the first tree to flower around Tu B’Shvat?

  4. On which holiday do we NOT eat fruits from Israel?

  5. How long is it from Tu B’Shvat until Purim?

  6. Which organization has been planting trees in Israel for over 

one  hundred years?

 

  7. What did Noah plant right after the flood?

   8. What branch of a tree did the dove bring back after the flood?

   9. What were the two “named” trees in the Garden of Eden?

 10. What does the word “TU” in Tu B’Shvat mean?

 11. How many glasses of wine are drunk at the Tu B’Shvat seder?

 12. Is Tu B’Shvat a minor or major holiday?

 13. When and where did the Tu B’Shvat seder originate (begin)?

 14. What are two things we do on Tu B’Shvat?

The New Year of Trees Quiz sheet. Answer sheet.

1.       When is the New Year of trees?

It is in the month Shvat. / It is on the 15th of Shvat

2.      Where was the first garden planted on earth?

It was planted in Eden.

3.      What is the first tree to flower around Tu B’Shvat?

The first tree to flower is the almond tree.

4.      On which holiday do we NOT eat fruits from Israel?

We do not eat fruits from Israel on Yom Kippur, because it is a fast day.

5.      How long is it from Tu B’Shvat until Purim?

It is exactly one month.

6.      Which organization has been planting trees in Israel for over  one hundred years?  

The JNF (Jewish National Fund) has been planting trees for    

over one hundred years.

7.      What did Noah plant right after the flood?

He planted a vineyard.

8.      What branch of a tree did the dove bring back after the flood?

The dove brought back an olive branch.

9.      What were the two “named” trees in the Garden of Eden?

They were the tree of knowledge and  the tree of good and evil.

10. What does the word “TU” in Tu B’Shvat mean?

The word means fifteen.

11. How many glasses of wine are drunk at the Tu B’Shvat seder?

Four glasses are drunk.

12. Is Tu B’Shvat a minor or major holiday?

It is a minor holiday.

13. When and where did the Tu B’Shvat seder originate (begin)?

It began in the sixteenth century in Safed.

14. What are two things we do on Tu B’Shvat?

We plant trees and eat dried fruits.

 

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