Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Even though Tu Bi'shbat (the 15th of the month of Shebat) is one of the days of the Shobabeem when fasting is prescribed, nevertheless, no Ta'anith (fasting) is permitted on this day since it is the Rosh Hashana (New Year) of the trees.
This is the time of year, in the Land of Israel, when most of the rains have already fallen and the new fruits start to ripen (Hanita - in Hebrew). Those fruits which ripened before Tu Bishbat are considered as belonging to the prior year for the purposes of Ma'aser (tithes) and those which begin to ripen after this date, belong to the next..
It is a good custom to increase the number of fruits one eats, and to sing songs and praises concerning them - as is laid out in the tiqqun. It is known that, in Qabbalistic terms, by saying the blessings on fruits we cause the continuation of the abundance above (Shefa' 'Elyon) and the angel in charge of that particular fruit receives this abundance in order to cause the fruit to grow once again.
There are supposed to be thirty (30) types of fruit:
10 (from 'Olam Habbereeah) which have no pit and no peel, but are eaten the way they are.
* Ethrogh (Citron)
10 (from 'Olam Hayeseera) which have pits inside.
10 (from 'Olam Ha'aseeya) which have a peel.
* Pine nuts
When eating these fruits, there is an opinion that one should have in mind (the Kawwanah) that through eating them we are making a Tiqqun (reparation) for the Sin of Adam, who sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. In truth, we should have this Kawwanah all year round, but on Tu Bishbat it is all the more appropriate.
While partaking of the fruits, one should read the portions from the Torah, Nebee-eem (Prophets), Kethubeem and the Holy Zohar that have been compiled for this evening, as can be found in the booklet Peri 'Es Hadar.
The drinking of Red and white wines is also prescribed.
Our great sage, Hakham Yoseph Hayyim, 'a"h, states that the Saddiqim (righteous) are likened to a tree (Saddiq Kattamar Yifrah) and that the wicked are likened to grass (Bifrowah Resha'im Kemo 'Eseb). Just like grass has no roots, so too the wicked have no roots or foundation and even a small wind can uproot them.
The righteous, on the other hand, have deep roots like the palm tree, making it virtually impossible to uproot. And even when they leave this world their ways and teachings will remain and continue to flourish through their children and students.
The Jewish people are likened to the vine. Just as the vine is weak and soft (when compared to other trees), but its fruit which can be used both for eating and drinking is excellent, so too the Children of Israel, even though we may be soft and weak, our Torah and Miswoth bear fruit.
Taken from the writings of Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe.