Tu Bishvat

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Tu Bishvat is, of course, the New Year for trees[1] and it is said that from this day onwards the upcoming season’s fruits have begun to take root. It is customary to partake lavishly in as many different fruits as possible on Tu Bishvat.[2] Some Chassidim, including many Rebbes, wear their distinctive Shabbat garb on Tu Bishvat in honor of the day.[3] Many different sifrei minhagim make mention of an ancient custom to recite the daily prayers of Tu Bishvat in the Yom Tov tune. So too, the communities of Syria had the custom to read the Ten Commandments in Arabic on Tu Bishvat.[4]

 

The halachic significance of Tu Bishvat applies primarily to issues relating to the mitzvot of teruma, maaser, and other agricultural mitzvot, most of which are only binding in Eretz Yisrael.[5]  One should not recite the birkat ilanot until the month of Nissan even if one sees fruit trees beginning to blossom from Tu Bishvat onwards.[6] One should endeavor to give tzedaka in multiples of ninety-one on Tu Bishvat – the numerical value of “ilan”, tree.[7]

 

It is said in the name of Rabbi Chaim Vital that one should endeavor to eat thirty different types of fruit on Tu Bishvat: ten different fruits which are eaten in their entirety, ten fruits of which only the interior of the fruit is eaten, and ten fruits in which only the exterior is eaten.[8] Other kabbalists teach that only 15 different fruits are necessary. As Tu Bishvat is specifically the New Year for trees, there is no particular significance in eating fruits that grow from the ground.[9] Some sources indicate that the custom of eating fruits on Tu Bishvat applies specifically at night though most others insist that the entire twenty four hour period is included.[10]

 

It is considered appropriate to eat an etrog on Tu Bishvat, especially the etrog one had used on Sukkot, if possible. In fact, one should use the day to pray that one be allotted a beautiful Etrog for the upcoming Sukkot.[11]  Indeed, even in years when Tu Bishvat falls out on Shabbat, one is permitted to pray for a beautiful etrog for Sukkot – even though personal supplications are generally forbidden on Shabbat.[12] Some have the custom to hold elaborate ceremonies known as the “Tu Bishvat Seder” complete with mystical readings and other prayers. 

 


[1] Rosh Hashana 2a.

[2] Magen Avraham 131:16; Mishna Berura 131:31, 225:19.

[3] Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 131:5.

[4]I saw this once in “Tu Bishvat Behalacha U’bminhag” by Rabbi Shlomo Neuwirth in an Ohr Yisrael Journal. I lost my notes as to which month/year.

[5] YD 331:125; Moadim Behalacha p.182-185.

[6] Har Tzvi 1:118, cited in Zechor L’avraham, Leket Hilchot Uminhagei Tu Bishvat by Rabbi Avraham Yosef Schwartz.

[7] Zechor L’avraham, Leket Hilchot Uminhagei Tu B’sehvat by Rabbi Avraham Yosef Schwartz.

[8] Luach Davar B’ito, 15 Shevat 5769; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 131:5

[9] Zechor L’avraham, Leket Hilchot Uminhagei Tu Bishvat by Rabbi Avraham Yosef Schwartz.

[10] Zechor L’avraham, Leket Hilchot Uminhagei Tu Bishvat by Rabbi Avraham Yosef Schwartz.

[11] Bnei Yissachar, Shevat 2:2.

[12] Halichot Shlomo 1:17 note 14.

 



About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

15 comments

  1. Moshe Shoshan

    It should be noted that etrogim produced for use on succos should not consumed. In order to keep thier surfaces pristine large amounts of insecticides are used, far beyond what would allowed on crops meant for consumption

  2. abba's rantings

    moshe shoshan is correct. i was once charged with clearing out a machsan of unsold etrogim on kibbutz tirat tzvi (what 2 weeks earlier would have been worth a small fortune and was now destined for the garbage dump). i was warned not to let the old ladies take any because of the insecticides.

  3. That’s nuts! I guess the best solution is delicious esrog jam, which we can be purchased most of the year.

  4. Are you saying I need to throw out my etrog liquor?

  5. It is interesting that the first Tu BiShvat seder, Pri Etz Hadar, is still the most popular. Even after it was proven to be written by a Shabbatian, it never caught on in the Sephardic world (who weren’t affected by the critical Askenazik rabbanim).

    The latest publication of Hemdat Yamim devotes so many pages to haskamot in an effort to play down its history. If I recall correctly, the editor’s preface discredits the Shabbatian authorship by mentioning the eccentricities of the Ya’avetz (who was the first to attack its authorship) – since a man who discredits the Zohar’s authorship, kal vachomer…

    This fascinating history seems to disappear more in the Israeli collective, where it seems that not only do Sephardim and Chassidim use it, but also the general Ashkenazim as perhaps the most mystical ritual for them practiced all year. Even other seders model themselves from the Pri Etz Hadar with the often used citation that it was formulated by “a student of the Arizal.”

    I can’t think of many cases in which such an antinomian source becomes accepted by Jewish society at large, nor can I think of any current poskim who forbid the text. Perhaps the author really has achieved anonymity.

  6. MiMedinat HaYam

    most insecticides do not penetrate the skin. and etrogim have a pretty impervious (but not thick) skin, unless its cut, etc. (the good insecticides shrivel the skin, making it not kosher. hence the usda issue with importing it.)

    etrog liquer — its extremely sweet and not a “fine” drink. hopefully, you didnt pay for it, and got it as a freebie for buying a sukkah. think of it as sugar juice. (its liquer with an “e”, as opposed to “o”. meaning flavored, not distilled.)

  7. “etrog liquer — its extremely sweet and not a “fine” drink. hopefully, you didnt pay for it, and got it as a freebie for buying a sukkah. think of it as sugar juice. (its liquer with an “e”, as opposed to “o”. meaning flavored, not distilled.)”

    No, I made it my self by zesting the etrogim in my community.

  8. MiMedinat HaYam

    zest = skin; prob has pesticides (if is true, i dont know; like i said, the “good” pesticides shrivel the skin, making it no good for mitzva).

    either way, that is not distilled. call it extra sweetened etrog juice. not liquor.

    i like that phrase “zesting the etrogim in your community.”

  9. I doubt he mixed esrog zest and sugar water. I imagine he flavored a vodka or something like it, so not “extra sweetened etrog juice.”

  10. Another source (probably more authoritative than Rabbi Neuwirth) for the Syrian minhag to read the 10 commandments in Arabic on Tu b’Shvat is “Shir Ushbecha Hallel v’Zimrah”, the big red Syrian songbook, page 515, which includes the whole text recited.

    You can see the relevant pages at http://pizmonim.org/book.php#515

  11. “I doubt he mixed esrog zest and sugar water. I imagine he flavored a vodka or something like it, so not “extra sweetened etrog juice.””

    Correct, and it is yummy, (but only when cold). However, now I’m scared to drink it.

  12. MiMedinat HaYam

    i meant vodka (supposedly neutral taste) or rum (slight taste) or other liquor with (alot lot more) extra sweetened etrog juice.

    thats how some of the kiryas joel liquers are made, i’m sure. those chocolate ones are atrocious. ditto that israeli stuff. (i would just add milk and have milk chocolate.)

    how about a post on bracha on chocolate and the kitniyot issue?

  13. MiMedinat—

    Those topics have been so dealt with I think another one would be overkill. I think Ive written on Kitniot in the past, Ill check the archives. Maybe Ill run it again before Pesach anyways.

    Ari Enkin

  14. a somewhat belated “She’hecheyanu”: the correct spelling BiShvat, not B’Shvat. Yishar kochachem!

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