Halacha for Tuesday 14 Shevat 5778 January 30 2018

The Significance of Tu Bishvat

The Fifteenth of Shevat or Tu Bishvat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees (Rosh Hashanah 2a). Most people commonly think that just as on the First of Tishrei, which is the day of Rosh Hashanah, all creations are judged for life or death, for wealth or poverty, and the like, so too, on Tu Bishvat, trees are judged in Heaven and their fate for the coming year is decided.

Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that this is not the case, for on this day, the trees are not judged at all. Similarly, Hagaon Harav Avraham Chaim Na’eh zt”l (Rabbi of Jerusalem’s Bukharian Quarter approximately fifty years ago) writes that many have a misconception that Tu Bishvat is the Judgment Day for trees when in fact this is not the case, for the Mishnah in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (16a) writes that fruit trees are judged on the holiday of Shavuot, not on Tu Bishvat. If so, what is the significance of Tu Bishvat and why is it called the “Rosh Hashanah for Trees”?

It seems that the reason why Tu Bishvat was established as the New Year for trees is because at this point, most of the rainfall of the year has already fallen, as the Gemara in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (12a) and Rashi (ibid.) state that by the day of Tu Bishvat, most of the rainfall has already passed, the sap rises through the tree, and the fruits have reached a noticeable stage of development by this day (the Rishonim disagree exactly how much this is).

Nevertheless, the day of Tu Bishvat poses certain halachic implications regarding the laws of Terumot and Ma’asrot (tithing of produce) and Orla (fruits grown within three years of the tree being planted which are forbidden to benefit from). Just to illustrate this, let us discuss one such example.

The Torah states (Vayikra 19, 23): “When you shall come to the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, for three years shall it be considered forbidden and may not be eaten.” Our Sages explain that these three years must be counted from the time the tree was planted and only after this point will the fruits become permissible. However, fruits that have grown on the tree during its first three years since being planted are forbidden forever.

Nevertheless, these three years do not need to be counted as three complete years; rather, we follow the years of the world. This means that the last several days of the year and consider them like an entire year. For instance, if one planted a tree at the end of the year 5777, one need not wait until the end of the year 5780 for the fruits to leave their Orla status; rather, the final days of 5777 are considered one year, then the years 5778 and 5779 are another two, and immediately at the beginning of the year 5780, the fruits exit their Orla status.

However, only when there at least forty-four days remaining in the year can this be considered an entire year. This means that if one planted a tree before the Sixteenth of Av of the year 5777, which is forty-four days before Rosh Hashanah of the year 5778, this counts as one year since being planted, for thirty days of the first year are considered one year and another fourteen days are added to compensate for the time it takes the sapling to take root in the ground; thus, a total of forty-four days are necessary for this to be counted as the tree’s first year. One must then count another two years for the completion of the three years, for instance, if one planted the tree in the year 5777, as we mentioned above, one counts an additional two years, 5778 and 5779, and in the year 5780, the fruits become permitted for consumption. However, since Tu Bishvat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees, although 5780 marks the fourth year, any fruits that are on the tree until Tu Bishvat of 5780 are forbidden to benefit from. Only the fruits grown after Tu Bishvat of the year 5780 are permitted for consumption, even without separating Terumot and Ma’asrot (since these fruits are called “Neta Reva’i” and are permitted for consumption after their sanctity has been transferred onto a coin after the fruits have been harvested. The individual redeeming the Neta Reva’i fruits recites the following blessing: “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Al Pidyon Neta Reva’i.” One then takes a “Perutah”, which is a coin of minimal value, such as the ten-Agora coin in Israel and states: “All of the sanctity of these fruits and their fifth is transferred onto this coin which is worth a Perutah.” It is preferable for one to recite this text three times. After performing this procedure, the fruits are permitted for consumption immediately and Terumot and Ma’asrot need not be separated).

Although the actual fate of the trees for that year is not decided on Tu Bishvat, nevertheless, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim of Baghdad writes that there is an accepted tradition from Ashkenazi sages that one should recite a special prayer regarding the Etrog (citron) fruit so that the Jewish people will merit obtaining beautiful Etrogim for the Sukkot holiday.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of the Holiday of Sukkot

As per the request of many of our members and as a public service, we shall now list a synopsis of some laws which are essential for the upcoming Sukkot holiday: The Sukkah must be made of three walls and Sechach (the roof). The walls may be made of any material which can withstand a normal wi......

Read Halacha

The Laws of One Who Forgets to Mention “Ve’Ten Tal U’Matar” in the “Blessing of the Years”

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed in a general manner that our Sages enacted that beginning from the Seventh of Marcheshvan (outside of Israel from the Fourth or Fifth of December), one begins reciting “Ve’Ten Tal U’Matar” (a request for dew and rain) in the “B......

Read Halacha

If One is Uncertain Whether or Not One Has Requested Rain in One’s Prayer

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the basic Halachot of requesting dew and rain in the “Blessing of the Years.” We have likewise mentioned that if one has completed the Amida prayer and remembers that he has not requested rain, one must repeat the entire Amida prayer, for one i......

Read Halacha

“The Blessing of the Years”

Beginning from last night, the Seventh of Marcheshvan, we have begun to request rain in the Amida prayer (only in the Land of Israel; the law for those outside of Israel will be discussed further). Let us therefore review some of these pertinent laws. The Enactment of the Sages to Request Rain O......

Read Halacha


Calling One’s Friend an Offensive Nickname

In the previous Halachot we have explained some general laws of the prohibition of verbal oppression or verbally hurting another. The Gemara (Baba Metzia 58b) states: “Rabbi Chanina said: All who descend to Gehinnom ascend from there (all wicked individuals who are sentenced to Gehinnom wil......

Read Halacha

Summary of the Laws of Verbal Oppression

In the previous Halachot we have discussed the primary laws of verbal oppression or hurting someone with words. We must now explain an important rule regarding these laws. The laws of verbal oppression are divided into two categories: The first is verbally misleading another (a form of trickery),......

Read Halacha

Verbal Oppression

The Mishnah in Masechet Baba Metzia (58b) teaches, “Just as there is a prohibition to cheat in business, there is likewise a prohibition to verbally hurt someone else, as the verse states (Vayikra 25), ‘And one shall not oppress his fellow and you shall fear your G-d.’” Hurti......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Verbal Oppression

In the previous Halacha, we have begun discussing the prohibition of verbal oppression between man and his fellow and between husband and wife. We shall now discuss some of the laws of verbal oppression based on the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 228). “V......

Read Halacha