Tu B'shvat, which falls on January 26th this year, is the Jewish New Year for the trees. One might ask why would a tree need a new year? They need one because of the many Halachot (Jewish laws) pertaining to agriculture in the land of Israel such as tithing produce. In many ways it is like an agricultural fiscal new year. Fruit that has already blossomed by Tu B'Shvat belongs to the previous year and anything that blossoms after Tu' B' Shvat belongs to the new year.
First mentioned in the Mishna (the Jewish Oral Law) Tu B'Shvat has a long history. In the times of the Gaonim (500 to 1038 CE) Tu' B'Shvat was a day of particular importance for the Jews in the land of Israel. In fact there was a special Shemoneh Esrei (the central prayer of any Jewish religious service) for Tu B'Shvat!
Today Tu B'Shvat has become a sort of Jewish Earth Day. It's a day to reflect on our relationship to the environment. One of the ways that we celebrate is by eating the 7 agricultural products that are singled out in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.
If you are interested in learning more about the relationship that we have with the environment you can listen to Rabbi Daniel Fridman's class To Cultivate and Preserve: Man's Relationship with his Environment.
Warning: This combination is addictive!
1. Split open and pit the dates.
2. Spread Marscapone cheese on top of the open dates.