The Laws and Customs of Tu Beshvat
The day of Tu Beshvat is a Halachic date that affects the laws of Kashrus of fruits. Due to this, it has become known as Rosh Hashanah Leilanos. Throughout the generations other customs have become attributed to this day, such as the omission of Tachanun, the prohibition to fast, and the eating of fruits.
Q&A on the essence of the day
Is Tu Beshvat a day of judgment for the trees?
Many Poskim have written against the common tradition that Tu Beshvat is a day of judgment for the trees. Although the Mishnah refers to Tu Beshvat as Rosh Hashanah for trees, this is only with regards to the Halachic matters of tithes and not regarding the day of judgment. The Mishneh in Rosh Hashanah 16a explicitly lists four dates of judgment, and Tu Beshvat is not listed as one of them. Furthermore, Shavuos is the date listed as the day of judgment for fruits. Thus the sources explicitly negate the notion of attributing a judgment day to trees on the 15th of Shevat. Nevertheless, despite the above, there are sources that consider this day as a judgment day for the fruits of the trees, and so is the opinion of the Rebbe. The explanation is as follows: Although everything is judged on Rosh Hashanah, nevertheless, a new judgment is given on the date that the tree begins to receive the sap and blossom fruit, which is Tu Beshvat. On Tu Beshvat the trees are judged while on Shavuos the fruits are judged.
Is Tu Beshvat a Yom Tov?
Rabbeinu Gershom records that Tu Beshvat is a Holiday. It is for this reason that it is forbidden to fast on Tu Beshvat and we also omit Tachanun.
Halachic relevance of Tu Beshvat:
The day of Tu Beshvat plays a Halachic ramification regarding the laws of Shemitah, Arla and Terumos Umaasros.
If the fruits blossomed in the 6th year they are considered 6th year produce and do not contain Kedushas Sheviis. If the fruit blossomed in the 7th year, prior to the 15th of Shevat it is disputed as to whether the fruit is considered Kedushas Sheviis or still retains a 6th year status. Practically, one is to be stringent like both opinions and remove from it Terumah and Maaser without a blessing, and the fruit is to be treated as Kedushas Sheviis. If the fruits blossomed after the 15th of Shevat of the 7th year then it is considered Shemitah produce according to all. If the fruit blossomed in the 8th year, prior to the 15th of Shevat, one should be stringent to treat it as Shemitah produce.
Esrog: It is disputed if we follow the blossom of the Esrog [fruits] or the picking of the Esrog [vegetables] regarding the Shemitah laws. It is likewise disputed whether we follow the beginning of the 7th year or the 15th of Shevat of the 7th year. Practically, one is to be stringent like both opinions and remove from Esrogim that blossomed in the 6th year but were picked in the 7th year, Terumah and Maaser without a blessing and the fruit is to be treated as Kedushas Sheviis. Also, for the Sukkos of the Shemitah year one is to be stringent to purchase an Esrog that was picked prior to Shemitah, and hence satisfy all opinions. In the Sukkos of the eighth year however the Esrog is treated as Kedushas Sheviis and hence may only be purchased through Otzer Beis Din.
The years are not calculated from the actual day of planting, but rather in accordance to the years of the Jewish calendar which begins in Tishreiy. Thus, at times the prohibition will be for only two years and 44 days, and at times for even more than three years. For example: If one were to plant prior to the 16th of Av, which is 44 days before the new year, when the new year arrives it is considered as if the tree is already a year old, and thus needs to wait only another two years. However if one planted on the 16th of Av or later then he has to count three full years beginning from the coming new year, and thus ends up waiting for over three years to be able to eat fruit from the tree. However in the former case where a full three years was not kept, the fruits do not become immediately permitted after the fourth year enters. Rather, all the fruits which have blossomed prior to the 15th of Shevat of the 4th year are still prohibited because of Arlah, while those that blossom after the 15th of Shevat until the 15th of Shevat of the 5th year are no longer prohibited because of Arlah, and rather have the status of Neta Rivaiy. From the 15th of Shevat of the 5th year, all the fruits which blossom after that date are completely permitted. There are opinions which hold that this prohibition until the 15th of Shevat also applies to the latter case where a full three years was already kept.
C. Terumos and Maasros:
Being Mafrish from one year to the next: One cannot remove the tithes of fruits from a mixture of fruits of two different years. Hence fruits of the 1st year must have their tithes removed on their behalf from fruits of the 1st year and not from fruits of the second year. The same applies vice versa. The 15th of Shevat is the beginning of the new fruit year in this regard. Thus, from the 15th of Shevat 5775 until the 15th of Shevat 5776 is one full year of fruits that can have the tithes removed from each other. Fruits that blossomed before or after that date may not be tithed from or on behalf of those fruits.
The year of Maaser: In the 3rd and 6th year of Shemitah we remove Maaser Ani instead of Maaser Sheiyni. Regarding fruits, the year of Maaser Sheiyni and Maaser Ani begin from the 15th of Shevat.
Customs of Tu Beshvat:
Tachanun is omitted from the prayer on Tu Beshvat. Tachanun is omitted starting from Mincha of Erev Tu Beshvat.
Fasting: It is forbidden to fast on Tu Beshvat.
B. Eating fruits:
It is the custom of Ashkenazi Jewry to increase in eating fruits on Tu Beshvat. [This custom is today also followed by the Sefaradim. The Chabad custom is to increase in fruits, especially in those fruits that Eretz Yisrael was praised for. One is not required to eat the fruits in a public ceremony, but rather each person eats the fruits with his household. One is to eat enough fruits to recite an after blessing. Our custom is to eat carobs [Bukser] on Tu Beshvat. It is not our custom to recite any prayers upon eating the fruit and likewise they are not eaten in any specific order, other than the order ordained by Halacha. Some have the custom to eat Esrog jelly, of the Esrog used for Sukkos, on Tu Beshvat.]
 Rosh Hashanah 2a
 Shnos Chaim 31/1; Nitei Gavriel in name of various sources
 Rosh Hashanah ibid
 Adnei Paz 131/5
 Likkutei Sichos 2/518
 Rabbeinu Gershom 14; Maharam Merothenberg 5; Tashbatz 100
 See Gemara Rosh Hashanah 2a
 Grach Naah p. 11; Minchas Yerushalayim p. 94; See Minchas Yitzchak 7/97 and 6/130
 The Rambam rules we follow Rosh Hashanah of the 7th year while the Shelah Hakadosh holds we follow the 15th of the 7th year until the 15th of the eighth year.
 Based on Shelah ibid
 See R”H 14; Rambam 4/12
 Perhaps it is treated like a vegetable being that it grows daily from its water, similar to a vegetable and we should hence follow the day of its picking, being that on that day it also grew from the water. [Grach Naah p. 11; Rashi R”H 12b] Other Poskim however rule that we follow the blossom of the Esrog just like any fruit tree. [Raavad]
 Rambam ibid; Grach Naah
 Yoreh Deah 294
 The reason for why the tree must be planted 44 days prior to the new year, is because it takes 14 days for the tree to root into the ground, and one needs at least thirty days of the previous year while the tree is rooted in order to consider it a full year by the time the new year begins. (Taz 5/Shach 9)
 Michaber 294/4-5. The reason for this stringency in the former case is because a full three years was not kept, therefore there is a stringency towards its end to delay its permitted state until after the 15th of Shevat. (Michaber 5) However see the next note that the Shach and Taz explain differently.
 Michaber 294/5. As the reason why we wait until the 15th of Shevat is because a fruit grows off the water/sap of the previous year until the 15th of Shevat of the that year. Thus it makes no difference whether one has counted a complete three years or not, as either way the fruits are growing from the sap of the previous year which was Orlah (Taz 8/ Shach 10)
 Michaber 131/6; Siddur Admur; Hashlama Divrei Nechemia 131/8
 Siddur Admur
 M”A 573/1; M”B 572/7
 M”A 131/5 in name of Tikkun Yissachar [Sefad 1600] p. 62; Peri Chadash 131/6; Elya Raba 131/14; Aruch Hashulchan 225/5; Hashlama Divrei Nechemia 131/8
 Sichas 1979/38; Sichas Beshalach 1980 56; Sefer Hasichos 1989 1/209 and in Hisvadyus 1989 2/225
 Sefer Hasichos 1989 1/209 and in Hisvadyus 1989 2/225
 Hisvadyus 1984 2/914
 Sefer Hasichos 1991 1/300
 Likkutei Sichos 31/235
 Alef Hamagen 660/7