Trees in Jewish Traditions

Trees have been given a key role in Jewish traditions and literature. Recognising its importance in the existence of life, trees have been both mentioned in holy texts and celebrated for its age and endurance.

 

Tu B’Shevat Jewish Trees Ketubah

 

Tu B’Shevat

The Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat falls on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevatand is known as the beginning of the New Year for Trees. The occasion marks the age of trees for tithing. According to  Lev 19:23-25, during the first three years of a tree, it’s fruit is not be eaten; the fourth year’s fruit is for God. After the fourth year is complete, you are allowed to eat the fruit.

People celebrate the Tu B’Shevat  by eating fruits, with a higher preference for fruit from trees from Israel: olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

Holy references

The story of creation begins with the birth of trees. As mentioned in Genesis 1:11-12,

And God said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth.’ And it was so

And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and God saw that it was good.”

The Torah prohibits the destruction of trees, especially fruit trees, even in war. According to Deuteronomy 20:19-20,

When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?

However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.

 

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