Today is Tu B’Shevat!

(Ed note, this was sent to us last night by the “Shabbos Lighting times” website)

Significance, and customs of Tu b’Shevat – ט״ו בשבט

Tu b’Shevat ט״ו בשבט – ‎ is a minor Jewish Holiday that marks the New Year of the Trees – Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanos ראש השנה לאילנות. It is also called Chamisha Asar B’Shevat (חמשה-עשר בשבט), also meaning the fifteenth of Shevat.

The Fifteenth of Shevat is the midpoint of winter and we are looking forward to the spring. The sap of the trees is beginning to flow and rise in the roots of the trees, though unseen by man and as a result the fruits are manifesting their first stage of formation.

The Rosh Hashana for Trees is a time of Tefilla (Prayer). We joyously celebrate this day in asking Hashem to continue to shower his benevolence on his children the Bnei Yisrael as well as the rest of his creations in the world as it says in Bircas HaMazon “Hazon es HaOlam Kulo Betuvo” (He Nourishes the entire world in his goodness).

Tu b’Shevat is one of four “New Years” mentioned 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 for trees occurs was a source of debate among the Rabbis. The Rabbis ruled in favor of Hillel on this issue. Thus the 15th of Shevat became the date for calculating when the agricultural cycle began or ended for the purpose of Orlah (a), Neta Reva’i(b), Maaser Sheni and Maaser Ani(c), involving trees and fruit.

a. Orlah refers to a biblical prohibition on eating the fruit of trees produced during the first three years after they are planted.Orlah remains to this day in essentially the same form it had in talmudic times and uses Tu Bishvat in the same way. For a tree in its final year, fruit ripening before Tu Bishvat is considered orlah, while fruit ripening on or after Tu Bishvat in the final year is permitted.
b. Neta Reva’i refers to the biblical commandment to bring fourth-year fruit crops to Jerusalem as a tithe.
c. Maaser Sheni was a tithe which was eaten in Jerusalem and Maaser Ani was a tithe given to the poor that were also calculated by whether the fruit ripened before or after Tu Bishvat. Maaser Sheni and Maaser Ani are observed today by a ceremony redeeming tithing obligations with a coin. Because the form of redemption is the same for both of these latter obligations, the year of the fruit no longer matters for these tithes.
Customs of Tu b’Shevat ט״ו בשבט – By Rabbi E. Wenger

• It is customary to increase in the amount of fruits one eats on the 15th of Shevat, in order to praise G-d who created all these species of fruits.

• In particular, one should include among the fruits one eats on this day the species of fruit which the land of Israel is praised for: grapes, olives, dates, figs and pomegranates.

• One should make an effort to eat at least one fruit which one has not eaten that entire season, and would require the blessing of Shehecheyanu. When eating such a fruit, the Shehecheyanu should be said prior to reciting the blessing of “Haetz.” {Some have the custom to recite the blessing of “Haetz” first and then the blessing of Shehecheyanu.} If he has already partaken of other fruits (at that particular sitting) than he only needs to say the Shehecheyanu upon eating the new fruit.

• Many also have a custom of eating carob on this day. (1) There is yet another custom which many have and that is to eat the Etrog from the previous Succos, either in the form of preserves, sugared slices, etc.(2) {Some pray that they will be worthy of a beautiful etrog on the following Sukkot.}

• It was the custom of the famed Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (“Arizal”) to eat 15 varieties of fruits on the 15th of Shevat. {Rabbi Luria and his disciples also instituted a Tu Bishvat seder in which the fruits and trees of the Land of Israel were given symbolic meaning.}

• On this day Tachnun is omitted from the Shacharis and Mincha prayers as well as from the Mincha prayer on the afternoon beforehand.

• Just like on three of the New Years a Taanis is forbidden (The first of Nissan, The first of Elul and the first of Tishrei), so to the fourth which is the Fifteenth of Shevat it is forbidden to fast. Even a Chasan on the day of his Wedding is not to fast on Tu B’ Shevat.

• We also don’t say Kaal Erech Apiem on Monday and Thursday in addition to not saying Av HaRachamim on Shabbos as well as Tzedkesecha Tzedek by Mincha on Shabbos.

• Many are accustomed not to give Eulogy’s (Hespeidim) on Tu B’Shevat.

1 It is questionable whether one says a Shehecheyanu when eating carob, since it is inedible when fresh. One must wait until it hardens a bit before it becomes edible and then the new carob is no longer distinguishable from older stock and thus would be similar to nuts upon which no Shehecheyanu is said (see Sefer Bircas HaShir Vehashevach for further elaboration).
2 It seems that the consensus of opinions is that no Shehecheyanu is said on the Etrog. One reason given is that the Shehecheyonu has already been said over the Esrog on the first day of Succos. (see Nitei Gavriel, Laws of Tu Beshevat 2:7).

Lz”n Gittel Charna bas Yaakov a”h

Lz”n Rochel bas Yisroel a”h

Posted on February 8, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nadyne Weissman

    Interesting – lots of information.

  2. Sent to the editors by Cantor Elliott Magalnick:
    Your Rebbe failed to mention the TuB’Shevat seder custom of having four glasses of wine. White wine and red wine are used. The first cup of wine is white; to signify the bleakness of the winter season. The second cup of wine is white with a tinge of red included to wind up a pink wine. This is to signify the warming of the earth and pink of spring flowers that appear in the land if Israel. The third cup of wine is red wine with a touch of white wine to symbolize the early spring fruit like strawberries, apricots and melons. The fourth cup of wine is all red wine. The red wine symbolizes the richness of GODS’ land and to thank GOD for the bounty and the harvest of the land is Israel.
    Shabbat Shalom

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