The Custom of Eating Fruit on Tu B'Shvat

There are those who say that we are obligated to eat 15 different fruits of Tu B'Shvat (since Tu B'Shvat is the 15th day of the month of Shevat). Is this a custom or a law?

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Question:

There are those who say that we are obligated to eat 15 different fruits of Tu B'Shvat (since Tu B'Shvat is the 15th day of the month of Shevat). Is this a custom or a law?

Answer:

1) There is no mention in the Mishnah or Talmud that Tu B'Shvat is a day of joy; rather, it is the new year for trees. This means that it is the date that distinguishes between the fruit of the past year and the coming year in terms of the obligation to tithe the produce (Rosh Hashanah 15).

2) Among the Rishonim (earlier authorities), Tu B'Shvat is mentioned as a day on which "Tachanun" is not recited (Minhagei Maharil), and this is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (131:6).

3) The Magen Avraham mentions the Ashkenazic custom to enjoy many fruits (mentioned in the Mishnah Berurah, ibid. #31), and this is also the Sephardic custom (Pri Eitz Hadar, "seder limud le-leil Tu B'Shvat"). The quantity of 15 fruits, however, is not mentioned.

4) Our master, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, writes, "By way of custom, there is on it [Tu B'Shvat] an imprint of a festive day for the awakening of the revival of the settlement in our Holy Land (Igrot HaRe'eiyah, vol. II, p. 61).

5) In the Jerusalem Talmud (end of Kiddushin) it is written, "Rabbi Bon said: 'In the future, a person will have to give an accounting for all that his eyes beheld, but he did not eat.'" Rabbi Bon's intention was not that a person should be a glutton and eat everything in sight; rather, he should endeavor to taste everything (obviously, everything that is permissible) at least once.

And it also relates there that Rabbi Eleazar was concerned about this idea, and so he would save his money in order to eat each of the year's new produce. Similarly, the Mishnah Berurah (225:19) writes, "It is meritorious to eat a little from each year's new produce. The reason is in order to demonstrate the preciousness of Hashem's creation." But it does mention there that one must eat 15 types; rather, that Tu B'Shvat is the chosen day to act in this meritorious manner.

Summary:

It is an ancient custom to enjoy many fruits on Tu B'Shvat. And it is praiseworthy to eat fruits that one does not normally eat during the year.

[Adapted from She'eilat Shlomo, vol. I, #212.]


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