Halacha for Sunday 9 Shevat 5777 February 5 2017

Tu Bishvat Customs

Tu Bishvat will fall out, G-d-willing, this coming Friday night (Shabbat). As we have mentioned in previous years, there are unique customs observed on the night of Tu Bishvat. We shall now review these points briefly. In a following Halacha, we shall, G-d-willing, discuss the appropriate procedure when Tu Bishvat falls out on the night of Shabbat.

The Prohibition of Fasting and the Customary Reading of the Zohar
It is forbidden to fast on the day of Tu Bishvat. Some customarily hold an order of learning on the eve of Tu Bishvat and read portions of the Mishnah and Zohar that are associated with this special day. Hagaon Harav Yaakov Rokach zt”l compiled a special book for the order of this night called “Peri Etz Hadar”. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one should learn while trying to understand as much as possible on this night, and not just read without understanding. One should try to focus on learning the Halachot pertaining to Tu Bishvat, especially the laws of Orlah (forbidden fruits of a tree planted within three years) and Terumot U’Ma’asrot (tithes). One should try as much as possible to understand what he is reading and not just to read the words alone, for reading without understanding is not considered learning at all. Only regarding the reading of the Zohar is reading without understanding indeed considered learning.

The Customary Eating of Fruits
It is customary to partake of a large variety of fruits and recite the appropriate blessings on them on the eve of Tu Bishvat in order to show that this day is the New Year for trees. This custom is mentioned in the works of the Mekubalim as well, and it is a fine custom.

Checking the Fruits for Worms
Fruits which usually contain worms or insects in them must be opened and checked prior to reciting the blessings on them. One must be extremely careful in the checking of fruits that are known to contain worms, for consuming them is a grave sin; one who consumes even one worm transgresses five Torah prohibitions (Pesachim 24a). One who consumes a worm taints one’s soul and blocks one’s heart from the service of Hashem. Indeed, Hagaon Rabbeinu Chizkiya di Silwa (author of the “Peri Chadash) took issue with the orators of his time who would expound nicely upon stories and hints of the Torah but would not rebuke the people about the terrible sin of consuming worms and the like.

One must take special care regarding dried fruits during the Tu Bishvat season which are known to contain worms, such as dried figs which are very difficult to check. There have been certain authorities who have banned eating dried figs and the like altogether due to the difficulty of checking them. One must therefore take extreme care in this matter.

Reciting the “Shehecheyanu” Blessing on a New Fruit
On a new fruit (meaning a fruit that one has not eaten yet this season), one recites the blessing of “Shehecheyanu Ve’Kiyemanu Ve’Higianu La’Zeman Hazeh”. One should first recite the regular blessing on the fruit and only afterwards should one recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing, as per the rule of “common and uncommon, the common takes precedence”. Thus, the fruit’s regular blessing which is recited on a more frequent basis precedes the “Shehecheyanu” blessing which is not recited as frequently.

If one has several kinds of new fruits in front of him, one “Shehecheyanu” blessing suffices for all of them. However, this only applies when all the new fruits are in front of him, for if not, one must recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing anew for each kind of fruit.

Praying for a Beautiful Etrog
Some have the custom that on the day of Tu Bishvat one should pray for a beautiful Etrog (citron) for the holiday of Sukkot. Although some oppose this custom since the judgment of trees is not actually decreed on this day, nevertheless, there is some basis for this custom and many great individuals have followed suit. Indeed, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l, who was extremely erudite in the hidden Torah and knew the deep meanings of the different times of year, observed this custom and actually authored a special order of prayers and requests for this day in his Sefer Leshon Chachamim.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Blessing on Matzah

Question: What blessing does one recite on Matzah during the Pesach holiday and during the rest of the year for that matter? Also, what blessing does one recite on crackers that are usually eaten as a meal? Answer: We have discussed several times in the past that any bread (anything made out of d......

Read Halacha

The Laws of “Sweet Challah”-Continued

“Sweet Challah” Should not be Used for the Shabbat Meals According to the Sephardic Custom In the Halacha published several days ago, we have established that “Sweet Challot” in which sugar or honey mixed in the dough can be tasted require the “Boreh Minei Mezonot&rdqu......

Read Halacha

“Sweet Challah”

We have explained in the previous Halacha that there is an obligation to eat an egg’s volume of bread (fifty-four grams) during each of the Shabbat meals. We shall now discuss the status of “Sweet Challot” which many customarily use as bread for the Shabbat meals. Are they consider......

Read Halacha

The Amount of Bread One Must Eat During the Shabbat Meals

Question: How much bread must one eat during the Shabbat meals? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (117b) states: “Our Sages taught: How many meals must one eat on Shabbat? Three.” Our Sages expound this from verses as is discussed there. Several Rishonim (Ba’al Halachot ......

Read Halacha


Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Vows and Oaths

Question: Is it forbidden to make vows even when one intends to fulfill them? Answer: We must first explain what the Torah meant by “vows.” The Gemara (Nedarim 13a) explains that the primary vow referred to by the Torah is when one attributes a prohibition to the specific object one i......

Read Halacha

Is One Obligated to Wear a Tallit Katan (Small Four-Cornered Garment) at all times in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tzitzit?

The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (113b) states that there are seven kinds of individuals that are excommunicated in Heaven and among them is one who does not don Tefillin on his arm and head, tie Tzitzit to his garment, and place a Mezuzah on his doorpost. The Tosafot (ibid.) write that it seems that......

Read Halacha

More Customs Observed During the Omer Counting Period

Some have the custom that during the Omer counting period (until the 34th day of the Omer), one does not wear a new garment which requires the recitation of the “Shehecheyanu” blessing (i.e. a new garment which causes the wearer joy, such as a new shirt and the like; however, a new garme......

Read Halacha