(photo credit: AVIE GEFFEN)
In light of the ongoing shmita year – during in which cultivating the land is forbidden – the Agriculture Ministry has published a booklet for Tu Bishvat, indicating ways aside from planting trees that the public can celebrate the holiday that begins on Tuesday evening.
The pamphlet, printed in collaboration with the Religious Services Ministry and the Teva Ivri (Jewish Nature) organization, teaches various elements of the Tu Bishvat Seder and links customs with environmental concepts. The booklet emphasizes the connection between the Land of Israel and its fruits, explaining customs through songs and exploring the mitzvot of the shmita sabbatical year.
Within the booklet, readers can also study traditional elements of the Tu Bishvat Seder, such as the consumption of four glasses of wine as occurs in the Passover Seder. In addition, the booklet contains information and stories about the trees of Israel.
During the shmita year, which began on Rosh Hashana, the Land of Israel is subject to an agricultural sabbatical that occurs every seven years, as mandated by the Torah.
Over the course of this year, the Land of Israel is supposed to remain fallow, though rabbinic interpretations beginning in the 1900s determined that Jewish farmers could sell their land to be farmed by non- Jews, through a procedure called “heter mechira.”
Depending on individual beliefs, many religious Jews rely on this determination, while the most ultra-Orthodox will eat only fruits and vegetables imported from abroad during the year.
“Today, when a minority of people is engaged in agriculture and most of us are not familiar with the mitzvot of the laws and customs of the Land of Israel in Judaism, we tend to celebrate Tu Bishvat by going out into nature, planting trees, in Tu Bishvat Seders and by eating fruits from the Land of Israel and many other fruits that do not necessarily grow here,” said Israel Galon, forests commissioner at head of the flowers and plant engineering division in the Agriculture Ministry.
“This year,” Galon continued, “in light of the shmita year, we have proposed that the public head out on a journey together of pausing and observing the beauty of the land, a journey of appreciating all this abundance, a journey of deep commitment to preserving the existent while calling for constant renewal.”
The Tu Bishvat booklet is available on the Agriculture Ministry’s website, free of charge, the ministry said.