Halacha for Wednesday 14 Shevat 5784 January 24 2024

Tu Bishvat Customs- Worms

Tonight, Wednesday 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 Rakach 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.

In Maran zt”l’s home, the order Tu Bishvat study was not read. Rather, after partaking of various different kinds of fruits and vegetables and drinking barley malt, Maran zt”l would deliver Divrei Torah. This was the custom in Maran zt”l’s household, even during the years that he was very poor; he nevertheless wished to fulfill this custom, and the family would sit around the table eating fruits and drinking barley malt while listening to Maran zt”l’s pearls of wisdom.

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 be infested 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.

Strawberries
We have been asked several times regarding the proper procedure for cleaning strawberries which some claim are infested with worms and other insects. We shall quote the ruling of Hagaon Harav Shneur Zalman Revach Shlit”a, an expert in this field. After investigating the matter thoroughly, he writes that strawberries should be checked, as follows:

  1. One should use only nice, symmetrically-shaped strawberries, not the creviced or cracked ones.
  2. The green leafy area on the top of the strawberry should be removed along with a thin layer of the actual flesh of the strawberry.
  3. The strawberries should then be soaked in soapy water (dishwashing soap and the like is fine) for approximately a minute and a half (not longer, so that the fruit does not get ruined). The strawberries should be agitated while submerged in the soapy water.
  4. The strawberries should then be removed from the soapy water and the soap should be completely washed off.
  5. Every strawberry should be individually washed under a strong stream of water from the faucet while being scrubbed gently using a sponge, soft brush, or at least one’s fingers. The entire surface area must be covered, especially the areas that are harder to get to.
  6. If there is concern of burrowing, such as if the flesh of the strawberry is very soft, the strawberry should be cut in half. Otherwise, there is no need to cut them in half.  

Greens and Herbs
Leafy greens should not be used unless they were grown under special conditions and/or checked by expert insect inspectors and while under a superior Kashrut supervision. Even when one purchases such greens, one must pay attention to follow the washing instructions listed on the package carefully. The same applies to fresh broccoli and cauliflower being sold this time of year under superior Kashrut supervisions. The above applies to such greens purchased any time of year.

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

Parashat Ki Tetze

Gathered from the teachings of Maran Rebbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztzvk”l (from the years 5744-5772) (written by his grandson HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a) (translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK) Ellul is the Time to Engage in Battle Against the Yetzer Hara, ......

Read Halacha

Eating Cake on Shabbat Morning

Today's Halacha is dedicated for the merit and protection of All Our Dear Soldiers May Hashem give them strength and courage to vanquish our enemies and may they return home safe and sound amid health and joy. May Hashem protect all the captives and have mercy upon them so that no harm befalls......

Read Halacha

 The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing

Our Sages teach us (Eruvin 40b) that one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing upon seeing a new fruit that renews once a year. Even if one sees this fruit in the hands of another person or on the tree, one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing. Nevertheless, the P......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Blood Found in Eggs

Blood in Eggs Blood found in eggs is forbidden for consumption, for this blood indicates the beginning of the embryotic development of the chick and this chick has the halachic status of “fowl” whose blood is forbidden for consumption by Torah law; thus, the opinion of the Rosh and Tosa......

Read Halacha


Parashat Terumah

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv (translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK) The Difference Between Moshe and Betzalel [Understanding Why Betzalel Was Able to Make the Menorah, Whilst Moshe Couldn’t] This Sh......

Read Halacha

The Proper Method for Reciting Blessings

During the days preceding Tu Bishvat, we have discussed some laws of blessings. We shall now discuss the law that the food must be in front of the individual before reciting a blessing, for this is the first law in reference to the laws of blessings. Waiting Until the Food is Brought Before the I......

Read Halacha

The Scent of Lemon

Question: If one smells the pleasant scent of a lemon, which blessing should one recite? Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 43b) states: “Mor Zutra said: One who smells the fragrance of an Etrog  (citron), or a quince recites the blessing of ‘Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’......

Read Halacha

Parashat Vayechi

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv (translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK) The Power of a Good Word In the weekly Parashah, Yaakov Avinu gathered his sons and blessed them before he passed away, as the Torah sta......

Read Halacha