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10 Shevat 5768 - January 17, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Tu B'Shevat—Rosh Hashanah for Trees or Agricultural Holiday?

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

The 15 of Shevat, Tu B'Shevat, determines the new year of the fruit trees in Eretz Yisroel. If of the first, second, fourth, or fifth year they are ma'aser sheini; if of the third or sixth year they are ma'aser oni. If they are of the seventh year they are peiros Shmittah. The minhag among Jews throughout the world is to eat a variety of fruit on that day in order to thank and praise the Creator Who provides us with fruit.

Our non-religious brethren are totally ignorant of the land- dependent mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel and of the true significance of Tu B'Shevat as the "Rosh Hashanah for Trees." But they also celebrate this day. Nationalists have taken sacred concepts and used them in a perverted fashion to serve their political needs. They have transformed this date into a mundane "agricultural holiday" commemorating the settlement of the land of Israel and the agricultural development of the State and in so doing have thoroughly changed its essence.

Secular groups who audaciously transformed Chanukah, which symbolizes our emunah in the Creator of miracles, Who gave over "the mighty in the hands of the weak, the reshoim in the hands of the tzaddikim," into a festival of physical might, have also uprooted the nature of Tu B'Shevat. In place of a day of spiritual elevation, to serve as an incentive for strengthening in Torah study and observance of the land-dependent mitzvos, on Tu B'Shevat the Zionist Movement glorifies settling in Eretz Yisroel while rebelling against Torah and mitzvos. Secular settlements "celebrate" Tu B'Shevat by planting trees whose fruit will be eaten even when they are tevel, orlah, and shevi'is, Rachmono litzlan. Can there be anything more absurd, more offensive than this?

Any Torah-observant Jew with emunah is aware that ahavas ho'oretz, our love for Eretz Yisroel, is different from the love of the nations for their land. For us, the Holy Land is not a "territory" intended for political shelter. It is the inheritance of Hashem and the King's castle. The land was given to am Yisroel to fulfill its spiritual destiny and not only as a "residence."

"The land shall not be sold forever: for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Vayikra 25:23). The Seforno writes: "`For the land is mine'—the region is the land of Hashem. `For you are strangers and sojourners with Me'—in that region, since it is not included in `He has given the earth to men' (Tehillim 115:15)."

The Or HaChaim explains the posuk in the same parsha "I am Hashem your Elokim Who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your Elokim" (Vayikra 25:38) that, "although I am telling you that I `brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan' the aim in doing so was not `to eat from its fruit and be satisfied with its goodness' (Bircas Me'ein Sholosh) but `to be your Elokim.' This is our main objective. Chazal have written in Toras Cohanim (Behar, parsha 5) `Anyone who lives in Eretz Yisroel accepts upon himself the yoke of Heaven's kingdom.'"

Our entire right to exist in Eretz Yisroel is on condition we observe the Torah. We should realize this principle even when we eat its fruits, as the Bach teaches us. The Bach (Orach Chaim, 208) in his explanation of the text in the brochoh me'ein sholosh "to eat from its fruit and be satisfied with its goodness" writes that we should not desire the land because of its fruits and goodness but to fulfill in it the land-dependent mitzvos. "The land receives its kedushoh from the kedushoh of the "higher" land. Its fruit too, benefits from the kedushoh of the Shechinah that dwells within the land. For this reason Hashem warns at the end of parshas Mas'ei, `You shall not defile the land which you shall inhabit in which I dwell for I am Hashem Who dwells among bnei Yisroel' (Bamidbar 35:34). If you become tomei the tumah extends to its fruit. The Shechinah removes itself from the land in which I dwell within it because of the tumah. The result is that the Shechinah is removed from among bnei Yisroel. Bnei Yisroel were the heichal of Hashem since the Shechinoh would dwell among them. Since they have now eaten from the fruit sullied by the tumah from the land, the Shechinoh disappears. As the tumah enters bnei Yisroel, the kedushoh leaves. Now we can understand why this brochoh reads, `to eat from its fruit and be sated with its goodness,' since by eating the fruit of the land we are nourished from the kedushoh of the Shechinah and its tohor oh and will be sated with its goodness."


The Zionist Movement used this empty ahavas Eretz Yisroel as a central theme to permeate the minds of innocent Jews who were without correct hashkofos and had forgotten the emunah of their fathers. Zionism succeeded in planting specious nationalist ideologies even among religious Jews. They disseminated the dangerous approach that settling Eretz Yisroel is more important than pikuach nefesh, which any intelligent Jew knows is diametrically contrary to halochoh and has no source in the Torah. Such a contrary hashkofoh could only materialize through a mixture of nationalism and religion. It is a shatnez composed of the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisroel whose source is in the Torah together with secular territorial aspirations emanating from foreign culture.

Maran HaRav Shach zt"l on many occasions reiterated that non-Jewish rulers led multitudes of their nation to the battlefield to capture new land declaring, "We can replace people but not land." This is an anti-Jewish and anti-Torah perspective. Anyone whose love of Eretz Yisroel originates purely from the Torah, from a true recognition of its kedushoh and lofty spiritual level, knows that the same Torah that commanded to settle the land, also commanded, "He shall live in them" (Vayikra 17:5) about which Chazal (Yoma 85b) deduce "`He shall live in them'—and not die in them."

The Jewish and Torah-orientated love of Eretz Yisroel that prompts us to settle it, to fulfill its special mitzvos and to elevate ourselves while living in Eretz Yisroel with Torah study and yirah, is what truly prompts us to fulfill also the psak of Chazal that "pikuach nefesh takes preference over the whole Torah" as Maran ruled to us concerning our vote for the Peace Agreement with Egypt more than 30 years ago.

We have one Torah and it alone guides us. The Torah does not accept "nationalist mitzvos." We observe carefully the halochos in our Shulchan Oruch and disregard those warped theories based on a false attitude of ahavoh for Eretz Yisroel. (We do not intend in these lines to take any stand on the topical subject of various peace treaties. We all know that a few years ago Maran directed us to vote against the Oslo agreements because of certain considerations. In any event, the approach that settling the land overrides pikuach nefesh is contrary to daas Torah as we learned from our rabbis.)

Those who raise the banner of "Not One Inch!" would better concern themselves with the kedushoh of Eretz Yisroel. They should be concerned with "You shall not defile the land which you shall inhabit in which I dwell for I am Hashem Who dwells among bnei Yisroel" as the Bach explains, "If you become tomei the tumah is absorbed by its fruit. The Shechinah removes itself from the land in which I dwell because of the tumah. The result is that the Shechinah is removed from among bnei Yisroel who were the heichal of Hashem since the Shechinoh would dwell among them. Now that they have eaten from the fruit that absorbs the tumah of the land, the Shechinah disappears."


On this day the anti-religious attempt to idolize "nature" and inculcate the heretical weltanschauung that sees all miracles of creation and growth of trees in particular merely as a "natural processes." All secular literature and song dedicated to this day indicate the blooming of the trees and blossoming of fruit buds, as if it happened by itself without any heavenly guidance. In reference to this we will cite rabbenu the Chasam Sofer zt'l, which applies to a year like this one when there are two months of Adar and Shevat is relatively earlier than usual.

Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 14a) write that the Rosh Hashanah for Trees is set during Shevat since during this period of winter the trees have sap and fruit are then ripening (see Rashi, ibid.). Nonetheless, in a year with two months of Adar, a shonoh me'uberes, we do not say that the Rosh Hashanah for Trees falls on the first Adar, which is in place of Shevat, but we continue as every year and Shevat remains the Rosh Hashanah for Trees (ibid., 15a, and Rashi, ibid.).

This actually needs to be explained. The seasons of the year and therefore also the dates when fruit ripens are according to the sun, as is written, "For the precious fruits brought forth by the sun" (Devorim 33:14). Why does the date of the ripening of the fruits not change in a year when there are two months of Adar?

Tosafos (ibid.) answers that the year of the fruit is according to Shevat since we count our months according to the moon. Teshuvos Chasam Sofer (Orach Chaim, 14) asks why the fruit ripen in Shevat since it falls earlier than on other years. "What is the connection of one thing to another? If there is no sap in the trees how can they ripen?" The Chasam Sofer cites a gemora (Sanhedrin 18b) that, "The year is dependent upon the moon." The seasons of the year are dependent upon the months of regular years. In a year with two Adars the seasons and the climate is not set by the month in effect because of the ibur, but according to the parallel month that would have been in effect during a regular year. Rashi writes: "`The year is dependent upon the moon'—The cold and heat of the year is dependent upon the months had there been no ibur . . .."

Accordingly, the Chasam Sofer asks why in a year of an ibur the ripening of the fruit happens in Shevat. "What difference does it make if during most years the month's name is Shevat? Since the chill of Teves is during Shevat there is no sap in the trees and they will not ripen. Ma'aser is set according to ripening. Why should we, therefore, make the Rosh Hashanah in Shevat?"

The Chasam Sofer cites the Yerushalmi referring to halochos of the Torah that are dependent upon nature, that nature changes according to the ibur. "Nature is subjugated to the Holy Torah." The nature of the world according to the seasons set by the sun refers only to instances irrelevant to halochos of the Torah. "Since it is not relevant to the Torah, the world continues naturally in reference to cold and heat."

We might think that in an ibur year the trees will not ripen on Tu B'Shevat of the moon, but at the time that should have been Tu B'Shevat according to the sun, but "since that has a relevance to our Torah, nature is subjugated to the Torah and its halochos, and the trees ripen as on most years during Shevat that is near to Teves. `He who said that oil burns, will say that vinegar burns' (Taanis 25a), and the cold weather at that time will not damage its ripening. This is what Tosafos wrote that `Yisroel count according to the moon'—that nature is subjugated to it."

Naturally these enlightening principles that inspire the hearts to pure emunah regarding the Creation being guided according to the Torah are unknown to our brethren who have gone astray from the Torah. They have, unfortunately, absorbed heretical theories and were not privileged to the true light of the Torah. They mark this day by worshiping nature, not realizing that the ripening of the fruit reveals the Divine wisdom hidden in the Creation that in an ibur year the fruit ripen contrary to the rules of nature. The Creator's wisdom has decreed that nature will be entirely subjugated to the Holy Torah.

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