Halacha for Sunday 14 Shevat 5779 January 20 2019

Tu Bishvat Customs

Tonight, Sunday night, marks Tu Bishvat. There are unique customs observed on the night of Tu Bishvat, as we shall explain.

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.

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.

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 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 this is a grave sin; one who consumes even one worm transgresses five Torah prohibitions (Pesachim 24a). One who consumes a worm taints his soul and blocks his 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 rabbis 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.

About one hundred years ago, the Sages of Aleppo, Syria declared a ban on grape leaves, for in that city, the grape leaves were known to contain worms and they were very difficult to check, thus, people came to transgress the Torah prohibitions of consuming forbidden items. For this reason, all of the Sages of the city unanimously decided to outlaw the consumption of these leaves. We can see from here how much care must be taken regarding this matter. Our Sages have told us that there is no more disgraceful sin than the consumption of forbidden foods such that the forbidden object enters one’s body and the body itself becomes a part of the prohibition. (See Rishonim on Gittin 7a and Baba Batra 36a).

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.

8 Halachot Most Popular

“Theft Prosecutes First”

The Mishnah (Yoma 85b) states that Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya expounded the following verse regarding Yom Kippur, “For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you, from all your sins shall you be clean before Hashem”- Yom Kippur atones for sins committed between man and Hash......

Read Halacha

A Thief Who Wishes to Repent-Continued

In the previous Halacha, we discussed the enactment of our Sages which dictates that when a thief comes to return a stolen object, one must refuse to accept it so that thieves do not become disheartened from repenting. Nevertheless, there are several details associated with this law, as we shall now......

Read Halacha

A Thief Who Wishes To Repent

Question: A few years ago, someone stole a certain sum of money from me. This individual has now approached me wishing to return this sum of money but he is crying to me about how it is possible that he will be able to return all the money he has stolen from so many people. What should I do? Answ......

Read Halacha

Establishing Times for Torah Study During the Days of Selichot

We have already mentioned in previous Halachot the words of the great Acharonim as well as Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l that the main goal for us during the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Repentance in our generation is to repent for our sins. Emphasis should not be placed solely on fas......

Read Halacha


The Obligation for Every Individual to Repent-An Incident Regarding Maran zt”l

Question: Why must one ask for forgiveness from Hashem for sins one has committed unknowingly? We know that there is no such thing as even a righteous man who does not sin at all and it is impossible for one not to sin even unknowingly sometimes! Why must we then repent for even sins of this nature?......

Read Halacha

Question: If one sins and it is difficult for one to repent and one has not yet done so, is there any benefit in one’s Mitzvah observance or is there no point at all?

Answer: It is well-known that the Teshuva process is usually categorized by “Desist from evil and do good,” i.e. one must first repent for all the sins one has committed against Hashem and only then should one perform Mitzvot and other good deeds which will stand to one’s merit. In......

Read Halacha

Wearing a Kippa on the Beach- Covering One’s Head While Reciting a Blessing

Question: Must one wear a Kippa on one’s head at the beach? (Obviously, this refers to a situation where being present at the beach poses no modesty concerns, such as in Israel where there are kosher, separate beaches for men and women.) Similarly, when one wishes to recite a blessing, is plac......

Read Halacha

Fasting on Shabbat

Question: Is there anything halachically wrong with starting the Shabbat day meal in the afternoon? Answer: We have already explained above regarding the laws of “the Mitzvah of enjoyment of Shabbat” that one is fully obligated to enjoy Shabbat through eating and drinking, as the vers......

Read Halacha