Today, Tu Bishvat is recognized as the holiday of dry fruits and planting. In the middle of every year, the children go to the forests of our country to harvest and plant, and to celebrate the holiday of the land. Customs such as eating the fruits of Israel and reciting a special prayer and blessings for Tu Bishvat have also been added over the years to celebrate it. All this gives it the festive character we are familiar with today, and it has even been nicknamed the “Festival for Trees”.

But the truth is, Tu Bishvat of old is not remembered as a holiday at all. According to Dr. Tova Dikstein – in a video taken on a farm in a valley in the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem – Tu Bishvat was actually a holiday of taxes – the first of January of ancient times. 15 Bishvat is indeed mentioned in the Talmud as “New Year for the Tree”, but the meaning of this description was halachic and practical: it was the day that defined a new year for tithes – the taxes of ancient Jerusalem. The reason is that Tu Bishvat is a date when most of the rains of the year have already fallen, and spring is approaching. So, it can be said that the fruits that grow from this date onwards are surely new fruits that grow from the waters of the new year.

So, Tu Bishvat was the holiday of the “accounting summary” of the past fruit year. On this day, the farmers sat down and made calculations – how much income they had from the fruits, starting from the 15th of the previous Shvat to the 15th of the current Shvat. It was this income that determined the amount of taxes = the tithes given to the Temple. The first tithe (= the first tax, which was one tenth of the income) the farmer would set aside for the Temple. The second tithe (= the second tax) is given only in certain years (the first, second, fourth and fifth year of the number of years of  Shmita). The second tithe It is one-tenth of the income left over after the first tithe is set aside, and its purpose is to support the economy of the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, the farmer was obliged to eat it in Jerusalem with his family members, or alternatively buy for the purpose of exchange at the Jerusalem markets during the pilgrimages.

Tu Bishvat, as we have already mentioned, is a particularly suitable time for the farmer to make his summary for the year – you can see that the fruit trees are in the fall precisely during this season – there are no blossoms and no fruits. The figs, pomegranates and other fruit simply do not grow now, and the farmer can sit in peace and sum up the year that has just passed. So why do we still sing about the blossoming almond tree? The blossoming of the almond tree marks the beginning of the new agricultural year. The almond tree is the first to begin to bloom, bringing with it a new year of fruit.

!Happy Tu Bishvat