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.
But 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…