By Rabbi Raymond Beyda
The holiday of Tu B’Shebat – the fifteenth of the month of Shebat – is
called the New Year of the Trees because most of the vegetation in the land
of Israel begins to bud at this time of year. There are many laws regarding
agriculture that are affected by this date. Regarding the young trees, the
Torah forbids consumption of the fruit for the first three years, and
permits full use of the produce anywhere from the fourth year on. The date
that determines the “age” of any tree in Israel is Tu B’Shebat.
Additionally, Jews are required to separate Terumot and Maasrot, portions
of the produce of the fields, on annual basis. The cutoff date for the
“fiscal” agricultural year is Tu B’Shebat.
In order to commemorate the day and to highlight our thanks to G-d for
giving us the Land of Milk and Honey, we indulge in consumption of many
different types of fruits. There is a special reading called “Peri Es
Hadar” which some people read on the night of Tu B’Shebat. It includes
portions of Mishnah and Zohar and listings of many fruits for people to
enjoy at the table.
The sefer Bne Yissakhar teaches that one should pray on Tu B’Shebat to
merit a beautiful and kosher etrog – citron – for the performance of the
misvah of the four species on Succot.
There are several lessons one should keep in mind on this day. Firstly, the
Torah says, “For the man is the tree of the fields”. The sages teach as a
tree must be protected from harsh weather and from harmful insects, so
too, a man must protect himself from the negative influences of society –
the media, philosophies and immorality that bombard a person on a daily
Secondly, one should assess the manner in which one recites berakhot -
blessings. One is required to say a blessing before partaking of
the pleasures of this world. How often one mumbles the words, is not
concentrating on the meaning and rushes through the “formula” required
permitting the pleasure to the individual. As we consider the beautiful
fruits and say the appropriate blessings, one should evaluate one’s
blessings and resolve to improve their effectiveness.
Thirdly, one should remember that if a tree has strong roots then it could
support many wide branches. However, if a tree has many branches and weak
roots then even a light wind can blow the tree over. A person’s roots are
one’s dedication to the study of Torah. Men must dedicate a set time to
the daily study of Torah to shore up their knowledge of all aspects of our
Holy Book. Women must study all the laws that pertain to the proper
conduct of their lives as head of the “bayit neeman” – Torah-true Jewish
household. By strengthening or roots each of us will enable our people to
survive the hurricane winds of exile and merit the coming of the Mashiah
speedily and in our days.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org.