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Tu Bishvat (Hebrew: טו בשבט) is a minor Jewish
holiday, occurring on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of
Shevat (in 2013, Tu Bishvat started from sunset on 25
January and finished at nightfall on 26 January). It is also
called "Rosh HaShanah La'Ilanot" (Hebrew: ראש השנה
לאילנות), literally "New Year of the Trees." In
contemporary Israel the day is celebrated as an ecological
awareness day and trees are planted in celebration.
The name Tu Bishvat is derived from the Hebrew date of the
holiday, which occurs on the fifteenth day of Shevat. "Tu"
stands for the Hebrew letters Tet and Vav, which together
have the numerical value of 9 and 6, adding up to 15. Tu
Bishvat is a relatively recent name; the date was originally
called "Ḥamisha Asar BiShvat" (חמשה-עשר בשבט), which also
means "Fifteenth of Shevat".
Tu Bishvat appears in the Mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashanah
as one of the four new years in the Jewish calendar. The
discussion of when the New Year occurs was a source of
debate among the rabbis: "And there are four new year dates:
- The first of Nisan - new year for kings and festivals -
The first of Elul - new year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar
and Rabbi Shimon say: the first of Tishrei. - The first of
Tishrei- new year for calculation of the calendar,
sabbatical years and jubilees, for planting and sowing - The
first of Shevat, according to the school of Shamai; The
school of Hillel say: the fifteenth of Shevat".
The rabbis of the Talmud ruled in favor of Hillel on this
issue. Thus the 15th of Shevat became the date for
calculating the beginning of the agricultural cycle for the
purpose of biblical tithes.