In Israel, another new year will soon be celebrated.
Tu BiSh'vat, the "New Year of the Trees," is observed on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Sh'vat.
Tu BiSh'vat is not mentioned in the Torah. According to scholars, the holiday was originally an agricultural festival, corresponding to the beginning of spring in Israel. As in the case with many Jewish observances, a critical historical event served as a catalyst. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the exile that followed, many Jews felt a need to bind themselves symbolically to their former homeland. Tu BiSh'vat served in part to fill that spiritual need. As it was no longer possible to bring tithes to the Temple, Jews used this time each year to eat a variety of fruits and nuts that could be obtained from Palestine. The practice, a sort of physical association with the land, continued for many centuries.
The sixteenth and seventeenth century kabbalists (mystics) of Palestine elaborated on the exilic customs, creating a ritual for Tu BiSh'vat somewhat similar to the Passover seder.
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