Tu B’Shevat FAQs
Written by: Rabbi Hayim Asher Arking | Edited by: Rabbi Eliyahu Ohayon
What is the significance of Tu B’Shevat?
Each year has four separate occasions which mark the beginning of a distinct New Year, that is to say that there are four Rosh Hashanahs! On the first day of Nissan, we have a Rosh Hashanah for the counting of the years of a king’s reign. The day to determine Ma’aser is the first day of Elul. On the first day of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, all people are judged and it is relevant for the counting of the years for events such as the yovel and shemitah. Lastly, on the fifteenth of Shevat – Tu B’Shevat (Tu – טו= fifteen) – we celebrate the New Year for trees. For the purpose of terumah and orlah, the year begins with Tu B’Shevat.
What changes are made in the tefillah?
Tahanun is not recited on Tu B’Shevat, nor is it recited in Minha prior to Tu B’Shevat. If Tu B’Shevat falls on Shabbat then the tsidkatecha is not recited. Just as on Rosh Hashanah people pray for a good year, similarly, on Tu B’Shevat, it is customary to recite berachot and prayers for the prosperity of the year. Therefore, we recite berachot on all types of fruits, vegetables and foods. Reciting a beracha causes all the living flora on earth which provide the type of food we are eating to be blessed. For example, when one says the blessing of ha’ets, it brings a blessing to all the fruit trees in the world to the effect that they should bring forth their fruit.
Is there any special prayer that I should be saying before eating the fruits?
Many have a custom to recite certain specific passages from the Torah, Mishnah & Zohar which relate to the type of fruit they are eating. The book פרי עץ הדר specifies all the fruits that one may eat and the passages that are said upon them. There is also a tradition to eat a dish i.e., etrog jelly made from an etrog that was used as part of the Arba Minim on the previous Sukkot. One should say a prayer that he should be blessed to find a beautiful etrog for the mitsva on the following Sukkot.
What is the proper order in which I should recite the berachot?
In general, when reciting berachot outside of a bread meal, one should recite the berachot in the following order: 1)mezonot 2) hagefen (note however that when reciting Kiddush, hagefen precedes mezonot) 3) ha’ets 4) ha’adamah and 5) shehacol.
Why is there a preferred order?
The reason for an order is that the more specific the blessing, the better and more enhanced is the praise to Hashem. A broader and more encompassing beracha does not zero in on the praise as much, and therefore it is given a lower ranking in the table of berachot. Shehacol, which means “that all was created with His Word,” is the broadest beracha and therefore food which will receive that blessing is saved for last. In a similar vein, the blessing of ha’adamah encompasses all that grows out of the ground and as that could include the fruit of a tree, ha’ets precedes it. Wheat, grows from the ground, so one could think that it has the blessing of ha’adamah, however, in the form of bread it is the basis of sustenance. Therefore, wheat has its own beracha. Even more specific, is the beracha of hagefen, although grapes come from the ground and then from a tree, wine has the unique beracha of hagefen because it is of a royal nature and deserves extra praise.
Would it make a difference if I recite the berachot out of order or is it just a nice thing to do?
Although one is required to recite the berachot in the proper order, if one mistakenly recites them out of order, he can continue to recite each beracha. However, it does get complicated when one of the foods that follows is of a questionable beracha. If one has already said a beracha, it is possible for one to circumvent one beracha by a broader beracha. For example, a beracha of ha’adamah said mistakenly with the intention to include an orange will no longer allow a beracha of ha’ets to be recited on the orange.
Is there a preference when the foods are of the same beracha?
If you have several foods which fall into one of the five groups specified above then you bless the foods in the following order: 1) the seven fruits which are indigenous to the Land of Israel 2) a whole fruit or food and 3) the food which is one’s favorite.
If I am eating different types of fruits on which one do I recite ha’ets first?
If a platter of olives, figs, pomegranates, grapes, oranges, apples and dates is served, then the first beracha to be recited is on one of the fruits indigenous to the Land of Israel as stated in the pasuk ’ארץ חטה ושעורה וגו . Therefore, the first beracha would be on the olives and if there are no olives, then on the dates. If there are no dates, then it is said on the grapes, the figs, and then pomegranates
What if there are no fruits indigenous to the Land of Israel?
If the fruits which are served do not include a species which is indigenous to the Land of Israel, then you should recite a beracha on the fruit that is generally more desirable to you. However, if this fruit has already been cut up, you would recite the beracha on the fruit which is whole, not cut or broken. This is done out of honor for the blessing. These rules also apply when presented with any assortment of foods that are of the same beracha, such as bananas, watermelon, and cantaloupe; or cookies, cake, and noodles. The food which is preferred more by the one making the breach and which is whole, takes precedence.
If there is a shehehianu fruit when would it be said?
A shehehianu fruit is regarded as the fruit that is most desirable to him. However, some say that the fruits that are indigenous to the Land of Israel still have precedence over shehehianu fruit, while others say that a shehehinanu fruit takes precedence. When only eating regular fruits, one should make a breach of ha'ets on should preferably be recited first, followed by the beracha of shehehianu.
On Shabbat when is the ideal time to serve the Tu B'Shvat platter?
To enable one to recite all of the above berachot, there are different opinions. One opinion is that one should bring the Tu B'Shvat fruit and foods to the table before Bircat Hamazon. However, those that have the custom to make blessings on food after kiddush and before Hamotsi, may recite Bircat Hamazon before the Tu B'Shvat fruit and foods are brought to the table. In this way, one will be able to fulfill the mitsvah of one hundred berachot per day in addition to reciting beracha aharona after eating dessert.
So, what is the complete order of berachot?
When is one ready to partake of the Tu B'Shvat table, he should begin with a beracha of mezonot on cookies or cakes. Next, he should recite hagefen upon wine or grape juice.
Then he should say the beracha of ha'ets on olives, dates, grapes, figs, or pomegranates (in that order).
Otherwise, ha'ets is recited on any fruits of his choice if it is a complete fruit. If there is a fruit that one will be reciting shehehianu on, then that will take preference over other fruit. Afterwards, one recites ha'adamah on the vegetable he prefers. Shehacol is the final beracha recited on food.