Jan 24, 2013

Interesting Psak: Consume local fruit for Tu b'Shvat

With Tu b'Shvat upon us one can see the wide array of seasonal fruits, mostly dried fruits, in the markets. Of course one can only look at them and not eat them because they are too infested with insects of various sizes and shapes... (humor, friends, humor)..

A lot of those dried fruits have nothing to do with the land of Israel. Many of them are imported from other countries, including from countries expressing hostility to us, such as Turkey.

While Tu b'Shvat is the new year for trees in general, the ramifications of the day revolve around the species of fruit connected to the land of Israel. The "official" customs of eating fruit also refer to the 7 species of fruit connected to Eretz Yisrael.

I sometimes wonder how it became popular to eat dried pineapple (much better fresh or canned), cranberries (which I love), papaya, various nuts, dried banana, apricot, carob (buxer) etc. They have nothing to do with the 7 species, and their connection to Eretz Yisrael is at best minor.

That's ok, because eating fruit is healthy (minus the bugs) and there is nothing really to complain about if someone wants to eat fruit, even if it is dried.

An organization called Machon Kete"r l'calcala al pi torah (I am not familiar with them) has issued a psak saying that one should buy fruits that are Israeli-grown produce rather than imported fruit. They considered the issue from 3 perspectives; am, eretz and torah:

  1. preference to buying from Jews
  2. strengthening settlement of the land
  3. holiness of the fruits and the necessity for fulfilling the various mtivos connected to the Land of Israel.
Their conclusions were:
  1. there is a halachic preference to buying from Jews  even if the product is thereby more expensive, unless it causes too great of a loss of money. Also, if the jew is in a bad state financially, one could consider buying from him to be tzedaka, as a means of supporting him, and then one should do so even if the loss is great (i.e. much more expensive than buying imported)
  2. Buying Israeli produce is an important aspect of the mitzva of strengthening the settlement of Israel. This is true all year round, but especially on Tu b'Shvat when we are focusing on planting and agriculture.
  3. When one has a variety of fruit in front of him, some poskim say that one should first make the blessing on and eat fruit from Israel, as they have the added benefit of the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Even those who do not give those fruit halachic preference still agree that the Israeli fruits have a special level of holiness above the others.
The conclusion of this organization, issued by the head of the organization Rav Shlomo Ishon, is that it is appropriate to purchase Israeli fruits over imported. Doing so strengthens the Israeli agriculture and farmers, along with being part of the mitzva of settling the land of Israel. As well, buying Israeli fruit over imported fruit shows that the person recognizes its special qualities and holiness, and it shows his love for eretz Yisrael, and for the holiness of its fruits.
(source: Srugim)

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  1. Well- I assume that the importers and grocers already invested in the fruit they plan on selling by now - so if you encourage people not to buy - you are really hurting Israeli business.. just sayin'

  2. And I believe pistachios all come from Iran (and are only exported via Turkey)


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