The first mention of this day is found in the Mishnah: “On the first of Shevat is the New Year for the tree in accordance with the statement of Beit Shammai. But Beit Hillel say: the New Year for trees is on the fifteenth of Shevat” (Rosh haShanah, 1). The following generations of legislators established the law in accordance with the opinion of Beit Hillel (see Rambam, “Mishne Torah”, Hilchot Trumot, Perek 5).
Our sages designated the fifteenth of Shevat as the boundary between one year and another regarding fruit-bearing trees, first of all regarding the requirement to tithe their produce. The fruit of a tree that was formed prior to this date, belong to the previous tithe year and cannot be tithed together with fruit that was formed after that date. Fruits that grow after this date are considered to be produce of a new year. The 15 of Shevat is also considered to be Rosh Hashanah regarding the end of the calculation of orlah, the laws of neta revai.
Together with this, the Rosh haShanah for Trees has a deep mystical interpretation in Kabbalah.
In his commentaries and explanations, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson reveals some of the mysteries behind this date:
– The complete gematria of the word « ilan » (« fruit tree » in Hebrew) equals the gematria of the word « Shevat » – the name of this Hebrew month. And this hints to a man, as the Torah says (« Devarim », 20:19), “Man is a tree of the field.”
The complete gematria of the word “Ilan” is 311. It’s calculated by summing up the numerical values of all the letters of this word (in their full spelling). The gematria of the word “Shevat” also equals 311.
Shevat is the fifth winter month of the year. It’s parallel to the month of Menachem Av, which is the fifth among the summer months. On the fifteenth day of Menachem Av there is also a special date associated with trees. In the time of Beit haMikdash, people would complete a great mitzvah – the cutting of the wood for the altar – on the 15th of Av.
According to our Sages, of blessed memory, both of these dates are holidays (“Yom Tov”) associated with trees. However, the 15th of Av marks the completion of the cycle, and the 15th of Shevat is the very beginning, because in the Land of Israel it’s the time when (the ground has become saturated with the rains, causing the sap to start rising in the trees), which means that the fruit can begin to bud… (See more in “Likkutei Levi Itzchak”, Volume 3: לקוטי לוי יצחק, כרך ג’, עמ’ תיג-תיד).
For everyone (even those who don’t engage in farming), the 15th of Shevat is a great occasion to celebrate!
We mark the day by serving the table with fresh and dried fruits. Particularly – from the « Seven Kinds » that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Land of Israel: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. This custom has a deep mystical significance.
The Rebbe reveals:
– The New Year of the Trees is associated with the seven species of produce for which Eretz Yisrael is blessed. As the Torah relates, it is “a land of wheat, barley, vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives that produce oil and honey (dates).”
The Torah also teaches “a man is like a tree of the fields.” The use of the Hebrew word Adam, implies that the reference is to the Jewish people. Adam is related to the word Adameh, “I resemble,” as in the phrase Adameh L’Elyon, “I resemble the One Above.”
Every Jew has seven spiritual potentials which parallel these seven species of produce…
What are these potentials and how do we fulfill them? Find the answer in this week’s featured podcast – “The Rebbe’s Talks” on the meaning of the Fifteenth of Shevat.
Happy listening and learning!
We mark the 15th of Shevat by eating fruit, particularly from the kinds that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the Land of Israel: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.