SymbologyThe focal tradition of Tu Bishvat is to eat a variety of fruits, beautifully arranged. The center features a plate containing all 7 fruits of the Land of Israel. Interestingly, in Halakha (Jewish law) each fruit is used as a reference size for particular legal requirements, as so:
Dates: Bottom center. The minimum amount of food to consider breaking the Yom Kippur fast is equivalent to the volume of a date. Hence the scale and shofar found in the cluster.
Grapes: Bottom right. The minimum amount of grape product invalidating the Nazirite vow is equivalent to the amount squeezed into a goblet equalling about a half-cup’s worth. Hence the goblet.
Wheat and barley: Top right. The minimum width of a tefillin strap is equivalent to the width of a barley grain, and the amount of time it takes to become impure by visiting a leper’s house is the amount of time it takes to consume a loaf of wheat bread. The fact that it’s wheat is important, as in the Rabbinic age it was the highest quality grain, and so it would be eaten quicker and less begrudgingly.
Figs: Top center. The minimum size to violate the “carrying rule” of Shabbat is the size of a fig.
Olives: Top left. Probably the most common fruit measurement reference in Judaism is that of an olive. However, matzah here is represented as eating an olive-sized volume of it isTorah-commanded at Passover.
Pomegranate: Bottom left. The minimum size of to bore a hole, and thus create a vessel on Shabbat, is equivalent to the circumference of a pomegranate.
Zodiac: Aquarius. In Jewish astrology, the sign is a bucket (d’li) and not the lithe water carrier like the Greek version. The person pouring the bucket is the month’s patriarch, Avraham, as he was given the blessing to have a multitude of nations. Accordingly, in his collar is the verse from Isaiah (40:15) saying the “nations are as a drop in a bucket” and written in the water itself is the verse comparing Torah to water (Isaiah 55:1).
Tribe: Asher. Asher was born and died in Shvat. His father Yaakov blessed him that he would be rich with food, and Moshe blessed his tribe stating that they would be rich in oil. The trees surrounding the fruit plate depict him. Also note the different climates around the trees; this is another feature which makes the fact that all 7 species grow in one land so special.
Other events:The right features a blooming almond tree. The gorgeous spring tree is the textbook example for the once-a-year blessing which wraps around the trunk.
Moshe began to recite the Torah in Shvat. The luchot (top center) feature this Torah verse (Deuteronomy 1:3)
Antiochus abandoned his plans to take the entire Jerusalem. In the Hasmonean era, this was celebrated as a holiday. I’m not sure why this holiday is no longer commemorated, but it could be due to their corrupt rule. You can see the elephant that was featured in my Kislev swimming away (bottom right).