[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Beshalach 5774 – translated by R. Blumberg]
1. Tu Bishvat – the Fifteenth of Shevat -- is the date that separates last year’s fruit
from next year’s fruit when it comes to taking taking tithes (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 15).
2. We don’t recite Tachanun on Tu Bishvat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 131:6).
3. There is an ancient Ashkenazic (Mishnah Berurah ibid. #31) and Sefardic (Pri Etz Hadar – Seder Limud LeLeil Tu Bishvat) custom of eating many types of fruit. There is no mention in those sources of eating fifteen types.
4. It is proper to look for fruits one doesn’t have the opportunity to eat all year (Mishnah Berurah 225:19 based on Jerusalem Talmud at the end of Kiddushin).
5. One should seek out fruits of the seven species of the Land of Israel (see Devarim 8:8). Yet fruits from the Land of Israel that are not from those seven species are preferable to fruits of the seven species imported from abroad. This is because a bounty of fruit in our Holy Land is a sign of Redemption (Sanhedrin 98a; Rashi). The Divine Presence rests upon the Holy Land and is absorbed by those fruits (Bayit Chadash, Orach Chaim 208). Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook would therefore call an Israeli banana “the holy banana”.
6. A practice of Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook: “To show his love for the holy fruits of the Land, he would strive to wash his hands ritually before eating them” (Lishlosha Be-Elul 78).
7. One should eat of the seven species first, in the following order: olives, dates,
grapes, figs and pomegranates (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 211:102).
8. If someone eats both fruit from Israel and fruit from abroad, he should conclude his after-blessing with the ending for fruit from Israel, “Al Peroteha” rather than with the ending for fruit from abroad, “Al Ha-Peirot”, for the former take precedence (Siach Ha-Pesach p. 105, quoting from the Steipler Gaon, Ha-Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, and Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv).
9. Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote: “Tu Bishvat has some aspects of a day of rejoicing over our resettling the Holy Land” (Igrot Ha-Re’eiyah Vol. 2, p. 61).
10. Some have the custom of planting a fruit tree on Tu Bishvat. When I visited Jonathan Pollard in an American prison, Pollard humbly told me, “I have a very large request to make of you: When you go back to Israel, plant a fruit tree.”
I therefore ask our readers to plant a tree for Pollard.