Celebrating Tu Bishvat



February 6, 2023

It’s cold, it’s snowing, the trees are bare… in many parts of the world, that is. But in Israel, the earliest flowers are starting to bloom and it’s time to celebrate a Jewish holiday called Tu Bishvat. 

Historically, Tu Bishvat was the date that marked the beginning of the agricultural year in the ancient Jewish calendar. Throughout history, Tu Bishvat has taken on different meanings for the Jewish people as our connection to land and agriculture has shifted and changed.

Today, an important part of Jewish consciousness is rooted in environmentalism and  ecological activism. Many people think about Tu Bishvat as an ancient Jewish Earth Day and spend the holiday learning about the Jewish tradition of environmental advocacy and volunteering for efforts connected to the land and sustainability. 

Recently, Hillel staff from all over the world gathered together to prepare for Tu Bishvat with a seder (a meal with ritual traditions and symbolic foods that invite discussions of the holiday and its meanings).

Want to learn more or create your own Tu Bishvat seder? Keep reading about the key rituals below and use  this guide

Hand Washing

Like many Jewish rituals, the Tu Bishvat seder begins with hand-washing. This ritual is not intended to sanitize our hands, but rather to mark a transition between non-sacred and sacred spaces.

Four Cups of Wine

Throughout the Tu Bishvat seder, we enjoy four cups of wine or grape juice (Sounds familiar?? The Kabbalistic rabbis who designed the Tu Bishvat seder modeled it after the Passover seder). 

Four Fruits

Another important part of the Tu Bishvat seder is eating different fruits with symbolic meanings that help connect us to the land and our obligation to protect and care for it. 

We conclude the Tu Bishvat seder with an appreciation for the diversity of produce and nourishment that comes to us from the earth. May we continue to care for the land and each other in thoughtful, dignified, and meaningful ways. 

Hillel International is a proud founding partner of the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition. Along with twenty other Jewish organizations, we signed a founding statement and have spent months working to create organizational climate action plans. We are finalizing our climate action plan, which will be released publicly in a few weeks along with the climate action plans of the other founding partners of the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition.