Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tu B'shevat

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Tu B'shevat 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 B'shevat.[2] Some Chassidim, including many Rebbes, wear their distinctive Shabbat garb on Tu B'shevat in honor of the day.[3] Many different sifrei minhagim make mention of an ancient custom to recite the daily prayers of Tu B'shevat in the Yom Tov tune. So too, the communities of Syria had the custom to read the Ten Commandments in Arabic on Tu B'shevat.[4]

The halachic significance of Tu B'shevat 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 B'shevat onwards.[6] One should endeavor to give tzedaka in multiples of ninety-one on Tu B'shevat – the numerical value of "ilan", tree.[7]

Click here to read moreIt is said in the name of Rabbi Chaim Vital that one should endeavor to eat thirty different types of fruit on Tu B'shevat: 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 B'shevat is specifically the New Year for trees, there is no particular significance in eating fruits which grow from the ground.[9] Some sources indicate that the custom of eating fruits on Tu B'shevat 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 B'shevat, 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 B'shevat 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 B'shevat Seder" complete with mystical readings and other prayers.

One should take the opportunity afforded by Tu B'shevat to reflect and thank God for the fruits that He has created for our enjoyment.[13] The holiness to be found within fruit all over the world emanates from the fruit of Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, one who eats fruits of Eretz Yisrael imbues his soul with holiness.[14] It is the custom of some Chassidim to bless each other with "May you merit good fruits" enigmatically referring to children.[15] Many people mistakenly attribute Tu B'shevat as being a day of judgment for trees; however, trees are judged on Shavuot, not on Tu B'shevat.[16]

There is a custom to begin a daily study of Masechet Megilla on Tu B'shevat, which would allow one to make a siyum on Purim.[17] Indeed, it is permissible to combine the Purim feast and the siyum celebration in one meal without concern for the prohibition of combining celebrations ("ein osin mitzvot chavilot").[18] Although Tachanun is not recited on Tu B'shevat[19] this custom is likely only of recent vintage. There are those who rule that Tachanun should be said at the mincha before Tu B'shevat[20] and others who argue that it should be omitted.[21] One should not fast on Tu B'shevat under any circumstances.[22]


Special thank to Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) for his continued proofreading services!

[1] Rosh Hashana 2a
[2] Magen Avraham 131:16
[3] Minhag Yisrael Torah 131:5
[4] Tu B'shevat Behalacha U'bminhag;Ohr Yisrael, Rabbi Shlomo Neuwirth
[5] Y.D. 331:125, Moadim Behalacha p.182-185
[6] Har Tzvi 1:118, cited in Zechor L'avraham;Leket Hilchot Uminhagei Tu B'shevat 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 131:5
[9] Zechor L'avraham;Leket Hilchot Uminhagei Tu B'shevat by Rabbi Avraham Yosef Schwartz
[10] Zechor L'avraham;Leket Hilchot Uminhagei Tu B'shevat by Rabbi Avraham Yosef Schwartz
[11] Bnei Yissachar Shevat 2:2
[12] Halichot Shlmo 1:17 note 14
[13] Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 224:5
[14] Bach O.C. 208 s.v. "vekatav"
[15] Luach Davar B'ito, 15 Shevat 5769
[16] Rosh Hashana 16a, O.C. 494
[17] Minhag Yisrael Torah 686:2
[18] Chazon Ovadia, Laws of Purim p. 181, cited at:
[19] O.C. 131:6
[20] Minhagei Amsterdam and London, among others.
[21] Mishna Berura 131:32
[22] O.C. 572:3

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More