Tu BiShvat is not mentioned in the Torah. The only reference to it is a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai as to the proper date for the holiday. Beis Shammai says it should be Rosh Chodesh Shevat, while Beis Hillel says the proper date is the 15th. As with other decisions, we follow the ruling of Beis Hillel.
There are only a few customs or observances related to Tu BiShvat. One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day. Others eat fruits of the shivas haminim. In Eretz Yisrael some people plant trees on this day.
The gematria of “eitz pri” is the same as that of the Hebrew word “shefa.” While eating our fruit, it behooves us to remember the bounty of Hakadosh Baruch Hu and be thankful for all that we receive.
Some people say a special tefillah on this day for a beautiful esrog for next Sukkos. In addition, many eat jam or compote made from the esrog that they used this past Sukkos. It is considered a healing food and has much mystical significance.
The shivas haminim also refer to many aspects of the home and family life. Wheat brings to mind shalom bayis, as it says (Tehillim 147): “hasam gevulech shalom chelev chittim yasbi’ech.” Also in Tehillim (128) it refers to one’s wife as a “gefen poriah” and one’s children as “shesilei zeisim,” once again comparing the family to the fruits of Eretz Yisrael. The hidden tasty seeds of the pomegranate remind us of the passuk “kol kvudah bas melech penimah” and dvash is reminiscent of young children learning, as it says, “Dvash v’chalav tachas l’shoneich.”
There are many “new years” on our calendars. It is interesting to note that the only ones that are celebrated are those of Rosh Hashanah and Tu BiShvat. The significance of the trees’ New Year must be as great as that of our New Year in the eyes of Hashem. Many people follow the custom of learning maseches Rosh Hashanah on Tu BiShvat as well as the halachos of orlah.
Try this salad for Tu BiShvat this year:
Pomegranate Dressed Salad
- 1 bag romaine hearts
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 apples, cut in chunks (Pink Lady or Honey Crisp)
- 10–12 dried figs, quartered
- ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
- ¼ cup pomegranate juice
- 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup olive oil
Place salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.
Put pomegranate juice, mayonnaise, lemon juice and sugar in your food processor. With the motor running, gradually drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is combined and thick.
Dress salad and serve immediately.
Our recipes below put to use some of the shivas haminim in delicious, easy desserts for your family:
For the glaze:
- ¾ cup dry red wine
- ¾ cup pomegranate juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp. grated orange peel
For the pears:
- 6 Bosc pears with stems, peeled
- vanilla ice cream (pareve or milchig)
Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, stir wine, pomegranate juice, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel until sugar dissolves, about three minutes.
Core pears from the bottom end using a small melon baller. Trim the bottoms flat and stand pears upright in a 9” baking dish. Pour wine sauce over pears and roast for one hour, basting every 20 minutes. Pears should be tender when pierced with a knife. Using a spatula, transfer the pears to a serving platter. Pour juices into a small saucepan and simmer to reduce to 2/3 cup, about 5 minutes.
Spoon glaze over pears. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Today we have access to endless amounts of fresh fruit. In years past, most fruit eaten on Tu BiShvat was prepared and dried during the summer. We keep up this tradition of eating dried fruit as well. This recipe uses both fresh and dried for maximum fruit flavor.
Dried Fruit Compote with Vanilla Bean Syrup
- 1 orange
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ vanilla bean, split
- 3½ cups water
- 4 large ripe Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
- 4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
- 1 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
- 6 oz. dried peaches, cut in half
Peel 3 strips of zest from orange using a vegetable peeler. Squeeze ½ cup juice from the orange. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, place sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, orange peel and 3½ cups water. Heat to boiling over high heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add apples and pears to syrup and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 8–10 minutes until fruit is tender. Stir in craisins and peaches and cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in orange juice. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 3 days to allow flavors to blend.
One should consult a Rav regarding checking of problematic vegetables for infestation.