The First Time that Tu B’Shvat has TRUE Significance to Me

I love Israel. I love living in Israel. I love everything about it and can honestly say I love the LAND of Israel as much as those who live in the Land. The Land of Israel provides for us so many opportunities to do Mitzvot, such as Shemitta, Terumot and Maasrot (tithing our fruits before eating). One of those Mitzvot (which actually ALSO applies outside of Israel!) is one known as Orlah.

The mitzva of Orlah is that during the first three years after a fruit tree is planted, one may not have ANY benefit from the fruit that grows. In the Fourth year, the fruit is known as Netta Reva’i and has a level of Kedusha (holiness) to it. The “years” are determined by Tu B’Shvat and with this significant day occurring this evening and tomorrow (corresponding to 25 January 2016), the fruit that grows after this point is fruit that we we will  be permitted to eat!

To understand how special that is, I need to recount the past three years of the trees produce and what we had to do. (We have pomello, clementine, lemon and pomegranate trees). During the first couple of years (a bit less), we had to catch any flower or early-stage fruit before it began to grow and to pick it off the tree and dispose of it. During the past year, since it was a Shemitta year, we picked the mini fruits off the trees and then let them sit for some time before disposing of them, since they had Kedushat Shvi’it.

That means that for three years, we SAW the fruit in its early stages but could not allow them to come to fruition nor have any benefit from them. From the day they were planted, we knew that only AFTER Tu B’Shvat 5776 could we finally have use of and eat the new fruits that grow after that point. We watched hundreds of fruits grow, that we could  not use…and abstaining meant keeping a Mitzva!

Now, we plan to try and make the first new crops extra special this year. In the time of the Bet HaMikdash, when a new fruit of the Seven Species began to grow, the farmer would wrap a thread around the new fruit. Once that fruit became ripe, the fruit was taken to Yerushalayim and subject to the Bikurim process.

While we only have one tree that is of the Seven Species, we will still take these steps with all of our new fruits! The plan is to tie a thread around the first new fruits of each tree. Once the items reach maturity, we will take them to Jerusalem and eat them there as a “remembrance” of Bikurim. But, more importantly, it will be in honor of our having awaited this time patiently for three years and then consuming the bounty of the Land of Israel in the holiest city in the Land. We will take that which has inherent Kedusha (Netta Reva’i) and eat it in the City that Hashem deemed the holiest on Earth.

Tonight we will celebrate with a Tu B’Shvat Seder. We will thank Hashem for the Land and its fruit. The difference this year is that the fruit we will eat in a few weeks will be that which we nurtured with our own hands. It is really quite exciting!

Happy Tu B’Shvat to all!

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.
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