Tu Bishvat? Tu B’Shvat? Tu B’Shevat? How do you spell the name of this earth-themed holiday that celebrates trees?
In Hebrew, there are only two spellings: טו בשבט or, more accurately, ט’’ו בשבט. In English there are a variety of spellings from Tu B’Shvat, to Tu B’Shevat, to Tu Bishvat. Whatever spelling you use, the correct pronunciation is Too Bish-VAHT.
The “tu” in the name of the holiday is not actually a word but a number — 15. Hebrew historically wrote numbers using letters (not numerals) and 15 is written טו because the values of those letters, tet and vav respectively, are 9 and 6 (which add up to 15). You might have expected the number 15 to be written יה, yod and hey which have the values 10 and 5 respectively, but that letter combination looks too similar to the name of God, so 15 is written טו instead.
Sometimes just the Hebrew letters symbolizing numbers are written as any other words, and sometimes the punctuation between them that looks like a quotation mark, called a chupchik, is also included, signalling that it is not to be read as a word but as a number. The chupchik is also used to designate acronyms.
The word “Bishvat” means “in the month of Shvat (also spelled Shevat).” The “b” (in Hebrew the letter bet, ב) is a prefix meaning “of” or “in.”
As with “Hanukkah” and most other Hebrew words, there is no one correct way to spell the name of this holiday. On the internet, Tu Bishvat is the most widely used spelling of the holiday.
However you spell it, Tu Bishvat is about appreciating our relationship with nature, planting trees, and considering how to take care of our planet in a more eco-friendly way. Learn more here.