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The Torah portion of BeShalach discusses the importance of eating on Shabbat, as we see from the verse, “And Moshe said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the L-rd; today you will not find it in the field.’” The fact that it says “today” three times alludes to the three Shabbat meals.
When Shabbat coincides with Rosh Chodesh, it is customary to add an extra dish to one of the Shabbat meals in honor of Rosh Chodesh.
Similarly, when Shabbat coincides with Yom Tov or Chol HaMoed, some have the custom to add an extra dish and or fruit in honor of these days.
Some suggest that, in these cases, a special dish be added to each of the Shabbat meals.
If one forgot to add a special dish in honor of Rosh Chodesh when it coincides with Shabbat, some say that one can add a dish to the Melava Malka and it will still be considered to be honoring Rosh Chodesh.
When Shabbat coincides with Tu Bishvat, it is customary to eat fruits at the end of the Shabbat meals.
This article will discuss the customs associated with Tu Bishvat, the Rosh HaShana for trees.
Four Rosh HaShanas
The first mishnah of Tractate Rosh Hashana says that there are four days considered to be Rosh Hashana, i.e., the beginning of the new year for certain matters. The new year for trees, according to Bait Hillel, which is the final halacha, is on the fifteenth of Shevat,  popularly known as Tu Bishvat.
This Rosh Hashana has halachic significance in terms of the laws of Shemita (the Sabbatical year), Orla (that we may not eat fruits of the first three years of a tree), and the tithes, as there are different tithes for different years of the Shemita cycle.
In addition, there are several other customs observed on Tu Bishvat, as explained below.
No Fasting or Eulogies
The Tashbetz writes that it is forbidden to fast or deliver eulogies on the 15th of Shevat. This is because the Mishnah (quoted above) says that there are four Rosh Hashanas. Since they are all listed together, we learn that they are all similar. Just as one may not fast or deliver eulogies on the Rosh Hashana which is on the first of Tishrei, so too on the Rosh Hashanah for trees on the 15th of Shevat. (The other two Rosh Hashana’s, for the kings and for the animals, are on the 1st of Nissan and Ellul respectively, when we also do not fast or deliver eulogies since it is Rosh Chodesh.)
Even a Chattan and Kallah
A Chattan and Kallah whose wedding day is Tu Bishvat do not fast on their wedding day. In such a case (and whenever the wedding is on a day on which one may not fast), they should fast on the previous day, according to some opinions.
Since this day is a day of renewal for fruit trees, this brings us joy, and it is therefore customary not to say Tachanun. When it coincides with Shabbat, we do not say Av HaRachamim before Musaf or Tzidkat’cha at the end of Mincha.
There are differing opinions as to whether one should say tachanun during the Mincha of Erev Tu Bishvat or not. From the language of Rav Yosef Karro in the Shulchan Aruch, it seems that tachanun is recited. However, the Alter Rebbe and the Mishnah Berurah (citing the Olat Tamid) hold that it is customary not to do so.
The sefer Tikun Yissachar writes that the Ashkenazim have a custom to eat many fruit on the 15th of Shevat.The Kaf Hachaim notes that many Sefardim have this custom as well.
On Shabbat, one should eat the fruit at the end of the Shabbat meals.
The Torah journal Neta Bachurim (printed over 100 years ago in Europe) explains the various stages in the development of fruits every year and the appropriate customs at each of these times.
Shavuot – Judgment
According to the Mishnah, we are judged for the fruit of the tree on Shavuot. It is therefore customary in some shuls to place trees in Shul on Shavuot to remind us to pray that the trees be fruitful in the coming year. Since Shavuot is the time for the Divine judgment for the fruit trees, it is appropriate to pray for them at that time. The trees placed in shuls act as a reminder for us to pray in this regard. (Please note that in some communities it is not customary to place trees in Shul on Shavuot as they believe that this practice resembles that of another religion.)
Tu Bishvat – Water Reaches the Roots
On the 15th of Shevat, the rain water of that year’s winter reaches the root systems of the trees. For this reason, the fruits that blossom after that time are considered to belong to that year’s crops (in terms of the laws of Shemitah and the laws of the appropriate tithes of every year). Whereas the fruits that blossomed before that date are considered to have been nourished by the previous year’s rain and are considered part of the previous year’s produce. Although we do not see the fruits blossoming yet, it is already appropriate to thank G-d for this milestone. It is customary to do this by eating fruits and, when saying the blessings, intending to thank G-d for the fruit of the coming year.
Nissan – The Month of the Spring
The month of Nissan is the month of the spring when we can actually see the budding blossoms. It is therefore the appropriate time to recite a special blessing thanking G-d for those blossoms and for fruit trees, in general.
Tu Bishvat Seder
There was a Kabbalist in the holy city of Tzefat in the 16th and 17th century by the name of Binyamin HaLevi. He was a student of the Arizal’s students. He wrote a book called Pri Etz Hadar in which he suggests that one eat certain fruits on Tu Bishvat in a certain order and study parts of the Torah that discuss each fruit before partaking of it (although he acknowledges that this is not based on any teaching of the Arizal). Here is a short synopsis of this work:
(Please note that this is for the purpose of study only. Personally, I am not recommending that the average person follow this order as he recommends that one have certain mystical kavanot (intentions) while reciting the various brachot. This is not relevant for the average person.
The Importance of Eating Various Fruit
The Talmud says, “Whoever benefits from this world (i.e., one who eats food) and does not say a blessing on it is considered to be stealing from G-d Almighty and from the Jewish community, as the verse says, ‘Whoever robs his father and his mother and says, “It is no transgression, he is the companion of a destroyer”.’” The reason for this is that there are sparks of Divine energy in each food item. When one says the appropriate blessing on the item and eats it, one elevates that energy and brings blessing to the Jewish people and the world. This Divine energy is connected to his soul and thus to the souls of his parents. So, if one consumes food without a blessing, he makes it impossible for his soul and that of his parents to elevate this energy. Instead, the energy remains in the realm of unholiness. This is referred to as “the destroyer.”
In a similar vein, the Talmud Yerushalmi says, “Rav Chizkiyah (in the name of) Rav Kohen said in the name of Rav, ‘A person will have to give an accounting (to G-d) for whatever he saw and did not eat.’ Rav Elazar was careful about this matter and would save up his money to be able to buy new fruits (at least) once a year.”
The reason that it is important to eat (new) fruits is that, as explained, there is Divine energy in the fruit which can only be elevated when one eats it after saying the correct blessing. One who does not eat the fruits is delaying this important spiritual accomplishment.
Fixing Adam’s Sin
When one eats fruit on Tu Bishvat, one should have in mind that he is fixing the sin of Adam and Chava who ate the fruit of the Etz Hada’at improperly. Although throughout the year, one can rectify this sin by eating in a holy manner, it is especially powerful on the day of the Rosh HaShana for fruit trees.
Fixing the Brit
Tu Bishvat always occurs during the time period when, according to the Kabbalists, one can rectify the blemish of the brit (an improper wasting of seed). These are the weeks between the Torah portion of Shemot and that of Mishpatim (Tetzave in a leap year). As such, eating fruit on Tu Bishvat in the proper way, can help one rectify this sin.
The Different Types of Fruit
According to Kabbalah, there are 30 basic types of fruit. 10 correspond to the spiritual realm of Beriyah (creation), 10 to the realm of Yetzirah (formation), and 10 to Asiyah (action). The fruit relating to the realm of Beriyah are the ones whose peels are edible and have small seeds. Some of these are grapes, apples, figs, etrogim, lemons, pears, quince, berries and carob. The fruits relating to the realm of Yetzirah have edible peels but inedible (large) pits. Some of these are olives, dates, and cherries. The fruit associated with the realm of Asiyah have inedible peels or shells. Some of these are pomegranates, walnuts, chestnuts, and almonds.
Recommended Fruits and Foods
Here are the foods that Rav Binyamin HaLevi recommends one partake of on Tu Bishvat. In order to accomplish the spiritual elevation of each fruit, a blessing must be recited on it. Since one may only say each blessing once per meal, he recommends that this meal be done in a large group so that one person can make a bracha on each type of fruit and everyone else can say Amen.
As mentioned above, he also recommends that certain sections of the Torah/Talmud/Zohar be studied before consuming each fruit. You can find some of these here.
The order he recommends is
- Cake or a cooked dish made from wheat (this follows the opinion that the Etz HaDa’at was a wheat stalk).
- White wine
- Hazelnuts, almonds, and chestnuts
Please note that when reciting blessings in fruit, one should give preference to the species of the fruits of Israel (according to a certain order) and to fruits which are whole and which one prefers. The details of this matter are beyond the scope of this article.
May we merit to elevate our portions in this world!
 Exodus, 16:25
 Shabbat, 117b
 Mishnah Berurah, 419:2
 Kaf HaChaim, 529:37
 Piskei Teshuvot (new edition), 250, note 69
 Siddur Ya’avetz, cited in Sha’ar HaTziyun, 419:5 based on the Talmud Yerushalmi
 See Pri Chadash on O.C. 131:6 that, although this date depends on the season (see below), it is not celebrated based on a certain day after the winter solstice but is rather celebrated on a fixed day – the 15th of Shevat.
 See Rosh Hashana 14a and on
 By Rabbi Shimshon ben Tzadok of the 14th century, a student of Rav Meir of Rothenburg
 Hilchot Ta’anit, 110
 This follows the main halacha that one may not fast on Rosh Hashana. But see O.C. 597 that there are opinions that permit fasting on that day.
 It has been pointed out (in Yalkut Yosef, 131) that the Rama, O.C. 573, writes that a chattan and kallah do fast if they are getting married on Rosh Chodesh Nissan since it is the day of the passing of Nadav and Avihu and is therefore considered a day on which fasting is appropriate (see O.C. 580:1).
 Mishnah Berurah, 573:7
 See Likutei Sichot, vol. 24, page 464. (A snippet of this letter is also quoted in Sha’arei Halacha UMinhag, vol. 4, page 115. But since it is not given in context, it can be misunderstood.)
 Minhagei Maharil, page 412
 See Leket Yosher by Rav Yosef ben Moshe, a student of Rav Yisrael Isserlan, author of the Terumat HaDeshen.
 O.C. 131:1. This is the straightforward understanding of the Shulchan Aruch as mentioned in the Olat Tamid and Mishnah Berurah. But see Pri Chadash who understands the Mechaber to mean that one never says Tachanun at the Mincha before a fast day.
 In the Siddur HaRav
 Rav Shmuel ben Yosef of 17th Century Crakow, a relatively early commentary of Shulchan Aruch.
 By Rav Yissachar ben Mordechai ben Sussan of 16th century Tzefat, a contemporary of the Bait Yosef and the Arizal
 Page 34b
 5667, Siman 62, page 43, column one
 Rosh Hashana 16a
 Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 494:15
 Vilna Gaon, cited in Mishnah Berurah, 494:10
 Exodus 14:4
 This blessing is printed in many Siddurim.
 Brachot, 35a
 Proverbs 28:24
 End of Tractate Kiddushin
 The Responsa Si’ach Yitzchak (quoted in the Bi’urei HaDaf of the Talmud Yerushalmi, HaMaor edition), O.C., 306 writes that Rav Eliezer would have liked to have eaten a new fruit and say Shehechiyanu every single day. However, being unable to do so, he would save money and do this on Rosh HaShana which is a day that encapsulates the entire year.
 The Penei Moshe on the Yerushalmi gives two explanations as to this matter: The first explanation is that it is wrong to unnecessarily deny pleasure to one’s body. In addition, one needs to thank and show appreciation to G-d for all the wonderful species He has created. The Korban Ha’aidah adds that it is possible that Rav Eliezer wanted to say the bracha of Shehechiyanu in order to thank G-d for all of the good things He created.
 See Brachot, 40a
 According to the order he recommends, one starts with white wine, then has white mixed with a bit of red, and then red mixed with a bit of white.
 I am not sure why this is included since it does not grow from a tree and the blessing on it is Ha’adamah.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom