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Rosh Hashanah 14

ROSH HASHANAH 12, 13, 14, 15 (3-6 Menachem Av) - dedicated by the wife and daughters of the late Dr. Simcha Bekelnitzky (Simcha Gedalya ben Shraga Feibush) of Queens N.Y. on his upcoming second Yarzeit (7 Av). Well known in the community for his Chesed and Tzedakah, he will be remembered by all who knew him.


QUESTION: The Mishnah (2a) states that the Rosh Hashanah for trees is the first of Shevat according to Beis Shamai, and the fifteenth of Shevat according to Beis Hillel. The Gemara asks what the source for this date is, and it answers that since most of the rain of the year fell already by this date, it is considered to be the end of the year for trees. Even though the winter season is not yet over and more rain will still fall, since a majority of the winter season has passed, this date is considered Rosh Hashanah for trees.

What does the Gemara mean? It is true that since most of the rain fell, it is now time now for the trees to blossom. But how does that make Shevat the Rosh Hashanah for trees? What does blossoming have to do with picking a date with which to begin the new year for trees?


(a) RASHI holds that separating Ma'aser from the fruits of such trees is only mid'Rabanan, and it is the Rabanan who determine the dates for the start of the new year of Ma'aser of trees (Rashi 13b, DH Mitoch; 23b DH Mena Hani Mili). The Rabanan decided that it is appropriate for the Rosh Hashanah for trees to be at the time that trees usually begin to blossom.

(b) TOSFOS (DH b'Echad) explains that the only time that is fit to be considered a new year is the first of Tishrei. The reason the Rabanan said that Shevat is the Rosh Hashanah for trees is because trees that blossom after Shevat grow exclusively from rainwater that fell since Rosh Hashanah.

Only after they absorb an amount of water equivalent to most of the year's rainfall, do trees have enough water to blossom. Consequently, since most of the rain of the year falls by the fifteenth of Shevat, any fruits that blossomed after that date blossom entirely from water that fell after Tishrei, and thus their Chanatah is attributed to the new year and the fruits they bear belong to the new year (which began with Tishrei). If a tree blossoms before Shevat, it is merely an indication that it grew from the rain that came before Tishrei and belongs to the previous year's fruits. This means that the Rosh Hashanah for trees is actually the first of Tishrei, and blossoming after Shevat is merely an indication that the blossoms grew from rain that fell after Tishrei. (This explanation has a source in the Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashanah 1:2.)

In this respect, the Ma'aser of fruit differs from vegetables (Yerek) and grains (Tevu'ah). These items belong to the year in which they were picked or grew a third of their growth, even though the water that nourished them came from *last year's* rains (see TOSFOS and TOSFOS YESHANIM).

(Tosfos is probably following his opinion that the new year for trees which starts in Shevat affects not only Halachos which are mid'Rabanan, but even Halachos which are mid'Oraisa, such as the laws of Shevi'is for trees -- see TOSFOS DH Mah Goren.)

(c) RABEINU CHANANEL understands the Gemara's question differently. The Gemara is not only asking why Shevat was established as the Rosh Hashanah for trees. Rather, the Gemara is asking specifically on Beis Hillel, why the new year for trees is the *fifteenth* of Shevat. Why did Beis Hillel insist on making this Rosh Hashanah in the middle of the month, when every other Rosh Hashanah is at the beginning of a month!

The Gemara answers that Beis Hillel maintains that the Rosh Hashanah for trees cannot occur until most of the rainy season has passed. That season begins on the seventeenth of Cheshvan (see Mishnah, Ta'anis 10a) and continues until the end of Nisan, for a total of five and a half months. The beginning of Shevat cannot be the Rosh Hashanah for trees, because by that time most of the rainy season has still not passed (because Rosh Chodesh Shevat is only two and a half months from the beginning of the season) and only a minority of the rain has fallen by that time. The Rosh Hashanah for trees must be the fifteenth of Shevat, which is after *most* of the rainy season has passed.


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