The old fashioned name for the holiday, before modern Hebrew was widely spoken was Hamisah Asar b’Shevat – which is simply the Hebrew word for “15” and the Hebrew month, Shevat. Ellen’s mom likes to tell the tale that little kids were taught the rhyme “Hamisah Asar b’ Shevat/It’s a funny name but we like it a lot.”
Each character in the Hebrew language has a numerical value (aleph, the first letter is 1) So after Hebrew was brought back to popular use as the language of the State of Israel, the holiday name was changed to Tu b’Shevat – with the “tet” and “vav” of Tu adding up to 15.
But enough about the name, the holiday of Tu b’Shevat is a day to appreciate nature and the environment and plant trees. In Israel, they plant trees. Here, kids often plant seeds in Hebrew school (to grow a plant by Spring) or donate money to the Jewish National Fund to plant trees in Israel.
It’s also customary to eat the seven species (shevat haminim) that are mentioned in the Bible – and have grown in Israel for thousands of years. They are: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey from dates.
Some people have Tu b’Shevat seders, to taste and enjoy the fruits and agricultural products from Israel. (We might just have a glass of Yarden wine and some olives before dinner).
Happy Tu b’Shevat