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Q&A: Tu Bishvat

January 21, 2016

Question: Why did you say that Tu Bishvat was not a holiday?

Answer: Because it isn’t.

Question: Doesn’t the Mishna mention that it is a Rosh Hashana just like the first of Tishrei?

Answer: It does, and the Gemara elaborates: it is a cut off date for determining which year’s crop the fruit of a tree enters. The exact halacha is subject to a major dispute, and only applicable to those of us who still grow our own fruit. But a holiday on Tu Bishvat? If I am not mistaken, there might be some of those old fashioned types who still say tahanun on Tu Bishvat, just like they do on the non-holiday of Lag Ba’omer.

Question: So why did you arrange those annual Tu Bishvat seders if you dont believe it’s really a holiday?

Answer: Educational opportunities. I don’t like those usual dried fruit baskets they sell all over the place, because not all of those fruits are exceptionally Israeli. (Apricots? Really?) According to our sages, the biblical fruits – olives, grapes, pomegranates, dates, and figs- and barley and wheat hold especial importance, and it gave me an opportunity to discuss the halachoth particular to their consumption and general words of encouragement to potential olim. Like most aspects of Judaism, Tu Bishvat only has real meaning and application in the Land of Israel. Further, planting trees in Israel is a part of a major commandment and a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and if popular culture dedicates a day to them, I am all for it, and will continue to be see so as long as it stays that way, and does not descend into neopaganism like Lag Ba’omer has.

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