Tu B’Shvat and Its Customs

The 15th of the month of Shvat is the New Year of the trees in terms of Orlah, Terumos and Maasros. We don’t say Tachanun, because the happiness of the tree influences the happiness of man – “…is the tree of the field a man?…”. (Devarim 20:19)

There is a disagreement if we say Tachanun at mincha before Tu B’Shvat. The minhag is not to say Tachanun (Mishna Berura, 131:32).

There are those who have the custom to learn on the night of the 15th of Shevat the Seder Pri Etz Hadar. There are others who study topics praising the fruits of Eretz Yisrael and the Land of Israel.

We eat more tree fruits on the night and day of Tu B’Shvat. We specifically eat the fruits that are listed in the Torah in praise of Eretz Yisrael.

It is best to eat of actual fruits grown in Israel and to bless them prior to other fruits. (Ben Ish Chai, Matos)

On this day we are especially careful with the blessings we make over fruit. We make the proper blessings with the proper intensions.

When we make a beracha over a fruit we start with the most important fruit. This is determined by which fruits are closer to the word “Land” ארץ in the pasuk – ארץ חיטה ושעורה וגפן ותאנה ורימון ארץ זית שמן ודבש. Therefore, the order is: bread, cake, wine, olive, date, grapes, fig, pomegranate, other tree fruit, fruit from the ground, those of the blessing שהכל , blessings over fragrance.

On Tu B’Shvat we pray specifically for a beautiful מהודר estrog on Succos of this year.

If Tu B’Shvat falls out on Shabbos, its best to eat the additional fruit after Bircas Hamazon and not after Kiddush nor during the meal. This is in order to have an appetite for the Shabbos meal and not have a doubt to the proper blessings on the fruit. In this manner one also increases our blessings on Shabbos, which is the proper thing to do.Fasting .

A bride and groom who are getting married on Tu B’Shvat, do not fast.Ma’aser

The date 15th of Shvat determines when the fruits are required for maaser Sheni or Maaser Ani. If the year 5760 was a Maaser Ani year, if fruits ripened prior to the 15th of Shevat 5760 then its fruits are given to Maaser Sheni. However, if the fruits ripened after the 15th of Shevat then they are given to Maaser Ani. This is because the fruits prior to Tu B’Shvat get their strength from the previous year’s growth.

Orlah

The first three years after a tree is planted has the status of Orlah. As such, its fruit products are forbidden for usage.

The Orlah years are counted from planting prior to the 16th of Av. Since there are 44 days until Rosh Hashanah, it’s counted as year one. Therefore, one only needs to count 2 more years for this tree. The fruits that ripen after the 15th of Shevat are permitted after redemption of its value onto a coin for נטע רבעי . From the 5th year onward all this trees fruits are permitted without redemption.

A tree that is planted prior to the 16th of Av 5757 is considered planted in year one up until that Rosh Hashanah of 5758. At Rosh Hashanah 5759 will be the completion of year two. At Rosh Hashanah 5760 will be year three of this trees Orlah.  All fruits that ripen prior to the 15th of Shevat 5760 are considered Orlah of 5759 and are forbidden to eat. However, all fruits that ripen after 15th of Shevat 5760 are נטע רבעיand are permitted by the redemption of the fruits value onto a coin.

If a tree was planted after the 16th of Av 5757 it’s not counted as year one until Rosh Hashanah 5758 . Year two will be 5759 Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah 5760 will begin year three. Whatever fruits ripen in 5761 are forbidden as Orlah. However, fruits that ripen from 15th Shevat 5761 and onwards is נטע רבעיand are permitted by the redemption of the fruits value onto a coin.  In the year 5762 from the 15th of Shevat onwards, all fruits are permitted from this tree. Therefore, orlah can sometimes be from a tree more than three years old.

Rosh Hashanah determines the beginning of a Sheviis year; not Tu B’Shvat.

(Based on the Sefer Pri Etz Hadar)

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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