subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to Tu B'shevat Homepage


~ ~ The mishnoh Rosh Hashonoh 1:1 tells us that it is the opinion of Beis Hillel that the "new year" for trees is on the fifteenth of Shvat. This means that it is an halachic "fiscal year" for tithes of fruit, which require tithing from the produce of the same year. As well, it is a "year" for counting years of "orloh" and "neta rva'i." If the fruit on the tree has blossomed before this date it is the fruit of the previous year and on the fifteenth of Shvat this fruit has entered its second year.

Why is this the date for the new year? It is because at this time in Eretz Yisroel that the majority of the winter rain has already come and the sap in trees begins to ascend, marking growth and renewal.

~ ~ The afore-mentioned mishnoh says that Beis Shamai posits that the new year takes place on Rosh Chodesh Shvat, expressing itself with, "B'echod b'Shvat Rosh Hashonoh l'ilon *K*divrei Beis Shamai, Beis Hillel omrim bachamishoh ossor bo." The word "*K*divrei" is most unusual. The mishnoh should have simply said "divrei." The Bnei Yisos'chor explains that since in the world-to-come the halacha will follow Beis Shamai, one who awaits Moshiach in earnest will surely mark off which fruits have blossomed from the first of the month through the fifteenth just in case Moshiach comes, and he will treat the newly-blossomed fruit from Rosh Chodesh onwards as from the new year. It is only on the fifteenth and with no appearance of Moshiach that he will treat it as from the previous year. Therefore the mishnoh says *K*divrei, "as per the words of," to indicate that one should act in accordance with Beis Shamai as well.

~ ~ "Ilon," a tree, has the same numerical value as "maloch," an angel. This alludes to the statement of our Rabbis that each growth has its own angel above which tells it to grow.

~ ~ "Eitz pri" (Breishis 1:11) has the same numerical value as "shefa." With our reciting the blessing "borei pri ho'eitz" over a fruit before eating it, we bring an influence of the blessings the trees receive upon ourselves.

~ ~ The Bnei Yisos'chor maamar Shvat 2:2 notes that the afore-mentioned mishnoh says that it is the new year for "ilon," a tree, in the singular form, rather than "ilonos," contrary to the plural form found by all other items mentioned in the mishnoh, save one. This alludes to the concept of praying for a proper, beautiful esrog for the upcoming Sukos, hence singular, as this is the one and only type of fruit the Torah says is used for a mitzvoh.

It is related that Rabbi Naftoli the Admor of Ratzfort used to say all of T'hilim on the fifteenth of Shvat as a prayer for an esrog m'hudor. One year he was interrupted about half way through and was only able to procure an esrog that had hidur on half its length, the following Sukos.

~ ~ Yofoh L'leiv relates that one should take his esrog after Yom Tov and prepare it in sugar or the like for consumption on the following fifteenth of Shvat. He says that a woman eating an esrog is a seguloh for an easy labour and the birth of a healthy child.

Although the responsa Divrei Sofrim #23 and Eitz Chaim hilchos Sukoh chapter #4 say that one should recite the blessing "shehecheyonu" on an esrog, the responsa Ksav Sofer #23 and the Mishnoh Bruroh228:16 say that one should not recite this blessing.

~ ~ The Mogein Avrohom 131:16 writes that it is the custom to eat many varied species of fruit on this day. The Sheivet Musar chapter #16 cites Rabbi Eliezer Hagodol, who exhorted his children to be careful to make a blessing on fruit on this day. Those who live outside Eretz Yisroel attempt to make a blessing on fruit that was grown in Eretz Yisroel, in particular its special species, olives, dates, grapes, figs, and pomegranates. (see Kaf Hachaim 131:27) Oruch Hashulchon 225:5 writes that one should eat a fruit that is new for him, to enable himself to recite the "shehecheyonu" blessing.

~ ~ What is considered a fruit of the tree, and what is considered a vegetable?

1) A plant that produces fruit yearly is a tree. A plant that has to be planted yearly is not. (Tur O.Ch. #203 in the name of his father, the Rosh)

2) A plant whose leaves grow from its branches is a tree. One whose leaves grow from its stem is not. (Tosefta cited by the Rosh on the gemara Brochos 6:23)

3) A plant whose branches remain from year to year and the same branches annually produce leaves is a tree. If new leaves only grow in the following years from new branches, even though the roots remain, it is not. (Chayei Odom klal #51)

4) A plant that is sown as seeds and produces fruit the same year is not a tree. (Rav P'olim 2:30)

5) If the wooden components of the plant are hollow, it is not a tree. (Halochos K'tanos #83, Rav P'olim 2:30)

~ ~ The gemara Yerushalmi Kidushin final chapter expounds on the words "Yish'm'u anovim v'yismochu" (T'hilim 34:3), Rabbi Eivon said that a person will have to give an accounting for having seen sweet foods and not having partaken of them. Rabbi Elozor would set aside one penny daily to be able to purchase all sorts of new fruits. The commentary Zayis Raanon on Yalkut Shimoni writes that the day he ate these fruits was the fifteenth of Shvat.

The Holy Ari z"l writes that one should have in mind when partaking of fruit on this day to rectify the sin of Odom Horishon, who sinned by partaking of forbidden fruit. One should attempt to eat 30 different fruits. In any case, even if this is difficult, a great effort should be made to eat at least 12 different fruits.

Kabalists write that one should eat 15 different types of fruit, five of which have edible flesh only, five of which have edible skin and flesh, and five of which have edible skin, flesh, and seeds.

~ ~ The sefer Tur Borekes writes that Rosh Hashonoh for trees is closely related to mankind's Rosh Hashonoh, as man is equated to a tree, as per the verse, "Ki odom eitz haso'deh" (Dvorim 20:19).

~ ~ Rashi comments on Breishis 1:11 that Hashem wanted the trees to develop in a manner that their wood would taste similar to their fruit. The trees did not comply, save the esrog tree. It is very difficult to understand how Hashem created them and the result was not as He wanted it to turn out. A possibility is that Hashem saw that man, who would be given free will, will ultimately sin. Hashem therefore allowed for some level of non-compliance to His wishes take place in creation so that mankind could have an excuse, albeit weak, that he was placed into a world that had a creation that had already not complied with Hashem's wishes, thus spiritually polluting the world somewhat. Man then found it harder to behave properly. The trees took this task upon themselves for the benefit of man. This is why the Torah equates man to a tree in Dvorim 20:19. The Torah says that man was created "b'tzelem Elokim" (Breishis 9:6). "Tzelem" has the same numerical value as "eitz." The fruit tree, which gave of itself to contradict Hashem's wishes in its creation, did so for the benefit of mankind. It is therefore well understood that one should not needlessly cut down a fruit tree, as it gives him standing in judgment. The Rosh Hashonoh for fruit trees is enmeshed with the Rosh Hashonoh of mankind. (Nirreh li)

~ ~ An allusion to making numerous blessing over fruit on the fifteenth of Shvat is found in the verse, "Shivtei KoH eidus l'Yisroel l'hodose l'shem Hashem" (T'hilim 122:4). The Yud-Hei (15th) day of Shvat is the day to praise the Name of Hashem. (Toldos Yitzchok by Rabbi Yitzchok Meisler)

The first letters of "Eidus L'Yisroel L'hodoseL'shem" have the numerical value of 160, the same as "EiTZ." (Nirreh li)




Back to Tu B'Shevat Homepage

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel