begins in the evening of Wednesday, 24 January 2024
and ends in the evening of Thursday, 25 January 2024
Tu B'Shevat Snapshot
Tu B'shvat and the laws of Eretz Yisrael - Mitzvot Talyuot Ba'aretz
What is Tu B'shvat?
Tu B'shvat first appears in the Mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashanah as one of the four new years in the Jewish calendar. "And there are four new year dates: - The first of Nisan - new year for kings and festivals - The first of Elul - new year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say: the first of Tishrei. - The first of Tishrei- new year for calculation of the calendar, sabbatical years and jubilees, for planting and sowing - The first of Shevat - new year for trees, according to the school of Shamai; The school of Hillel say: the fifteenth of Shevat" (Rosh Hashana:1a) The rabbis of the Talmud ruled in favor of Hillel on this issue. Thus the 15th of Shevat became the date for the new year for trees.
Tu B'shvat is the beginning of the year for trees. This date determines which year the fruits of the trees belong to regarding the mitzvot of the Land of Israel - orlah, neta reva'i, terumot, ma'aser etc.
Fruits which reach the stage of growth known as a 'chatanah' - bud, before Tu B'shvat belong to the former year while those that reach that stage after Tu B'shvat belong to the next year.
One must not separate tithes which pertain to one year for fruits from another year.
What are these mitzvot?
Orla & Neta Reva'i
A Jew may not derive any benefit from the produce of a fruit tree for the first three years after it is planted. This rule applies even outside of Israel. Any fruit yielded by the tree in these three years is called "orlah" --"blocked" (prohibited).
In Temple times the fruit of the fourth year (or its value) was brought to Jerusalem and eaten there. These fourth year fruits are known halachically as neta revai. The fruit of the fifth year (and on) were permitted for normal consumption.
Ramban (Nachmanides) writes that trees in these formative years produce only an insignificant amount of low quality fruit. The first significant fruit of every tree -- the crop of the fourth year -- was brought to Jerusalem and eaten in sanctity as an expression of gratitude to G-d. It would be inappropriate to use the fruit for personal benefit before "inaugurating" the tree's fruit in Jerusalem.
Outside of Israel, only definite orlah is forbidden. Any fruit which is safek orlah, there is doubt whether it is orlah or not, is permitted. In Israel, however, safek orlah is prohibited to this very day.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to ensure that any produce that comes from Israel is certified to be Kosher, and orlah free.
Terumah means an "elevated" offering/gift or donation. It is the produce tithe that Levites and Israelites would submit to the Kohenim in Temple times. According to biblical law, Terumah consisted of several agricultural products: wheat, wine, and oil. The Rabbis decreed that Terumah be separated from all other fruits and vegetables as well.
How would I give Terumah?
1. A Two Percent Cut
According to Halachah, Terumah consisted of approximately one-fiftieth of one's raw, unreserved produce--or two percent. Setting that amount aside would be your first step.
2. Specially Reserved
Once designated, Terumah could not be used for anything else. Accidental consumption by a non-Kohen required restitution both physical and spiritual, as Terumah provisions were sacred and off-limits to any non-Kohen.
3. Hand it Over
Completing the mitzvah of terumah entailed simply transferring the designated terumah to your friendly neighborhood Kohen. (If none were available, you could always shlep the stuff up to the Temple, where there were tons of Kohenim.) When no Temple is standing in Jerusalem, Terumah is only separated in Israel. However, Terumah requires a ritually pure Kohen -- which today, due to the absence of the ashes of the Red Heifer, does not exist. Therefore, today's Terumah consists of a minimal part of the crops which is separated and then discarded.
Maaser means "a tenth." It's based on the Hebrew word eser (pronounced EH-sehr), or ten. As a rule, it refers to donating ten percent of whatever to whomever. While maaser may seem like a lot of giving, it's actually all about receiving. Just like sacrifices, which primarily benefit those who bring them, giving maaser whips you into spiritual shape by forcing you to extend yourself. The original concept of maaser is Torah-based. On the 3rd and 6th year of the aforementioned cycle, the second tithe was given to the poor, who ate (or sold) it wherever they wished. Additionaly, every person is obligated to give a tenth of his earnings to charity. We already find this custom by our forefathers. Before Jacob went to his uncle Laban he pledged to G-d that "everything that You give me, I will surely tithe to You."
How do I give maaser?
1. Be specific
Depends on which type you're talking about. Firstly, all except the "income maaser" are only obligatory in the Holy Land. And many of their laws apply only when the Beit Hamikdash stands -- which means, when Moshiach comes.
Income maaser is given from all gross income and monetary gifts which a person earns or receives. There are certain deductions and credits -- such us tuition costs -- speak to a rabbi to find out if you are eligible. Similarly, if you are in a financial predicament, a rabbi should be consulted to find out what your obligations are.
Other practices of Tu B'shvat
It is customary to eat fruits for which the Land of Israel is praised on Tu B'shvat. This is expression of our love for the Land of Israel and the mitzvot that apply to it.
Some also have the custom to plant trees on Tu B'shvat.
Tachanun is not recited on Tu B'shvat.
In the Middle Ages, Tu B'shvat was celebrated with a feast of fruits in keeping with the Mishnaic description of the holiday as a "New Year." In the 17th century, the kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed, the Arizal, and his disciples instituted a Tu B'shvat seder in which the fruits and trees of the Land of Israel were given symbolic meaning. The main idea was that eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order while reciting the appropriate blessings would bring human beings, and the world, closer to spiritual perfection.
In Israel, the kabbalistic Tu B'shvat seder has been revived, and is now celebrated by many Jews, religious and secular. Special haggadot have been written for this purpose.
On Tu B'shvat in 1890, Rabbi Zeev Yavetz, one of the founders of the Mizrachi movement, took his students to plant trees in the agricultural colony of Zichron Yaakov. This custom was adopted in 1908 by the Jewish Teachers Union and later by the Jewish National Fund (Keren HaKayemet L'Yisrael), established in 1901 to oversee land reclamation and afforestation of the Land of Israel. Over a million Israelis now take part in the Jewish National Fund's tree-planting activities organized every year on Tu Bishvat.
Tu B'shvat Trivia!
In keeping with the idea of Tu Bishvat marking the revival of nature, symbolized by the budding of the almond tree, many of Israel's major institutions have chosen this day for their inauguration. The cornerstone-laying of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem took place on Tu Bishvat 1918; the Technion in Haifa, on Tu Bishvat 1925; and the Knesset, on Tu Bishvat 1949.
This article has been written by Aryeh Grossman. Adapted from Sha'arei Halacha by Rabbi Ze'ev Greenwald and askmoses.com
New Year For Trees by Reverend Michael Plaskow MBE
When was the time you wished a tree Happy New Year? The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat is a great opportunity. It is known as Tu b'Shevat, the New Year for Trees. "Tu" is two Hebrew letters whose numerical value is TET =9 and VAV = 6 which total 15.
Why do trees celebrate their New Year so much later than ours? It has to do with the rainy season in Israel, which commences with the festival of Succot. It takes four months for the rains to saturate the soil, nurture the trees and coax them into producing fruit. This is important to know if you are planning to give your tithes of fruits, as we did in Temple times, because the required tithes varied from year to year.
We humans can also celebrate along with the trees. After all, the Torah says, Man is a tree of the field."(Devarim 20:19). We are nurtured by deep roots, as far back as Abraham and Sarah. We reach upwards to the heavens while standing firmly on the ground and when we do all this in a correct manner, we produce fruits that benefit the world - namely our good deeds.
Try and eat some fruit this day for which Israel is famous and which are singled out by the Torah such as olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. It is customary to eat 15 types of fruit on this day.