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I have seen this statement, always attributed to Rabbi Abbun, cited in many Tu b'Shevat haggadot online, always in the following form:

In the Talmud, Rabbi Abbun said: “In the next world, a person will be judged for all the fine fruit that he saw but did not eat.” Rabbi Elazar fulfilled this teaching. Although he was very poor, he saved up small coins, which he kept in a special pouch, to purchase new fruits as they came into season.

According to this answer on a related question, it appears to be based on a passage from the Yerushalmi:

ר' חזקיה ר' כהן בשם רב עתיד אדם ליתן דין וחשבון על כל מה שראת עינו ולא אכל רבי לעזר חשש להדא שמועתא ומצמית ליה פריטין ואכיל בהון מכל מילה חדא בשתא
R Chizkiah R Cohn in the name of Rav: In the future one will be judged for all that his eyes saw and he didn't eat. R Lazer worried about this opinion and set aside money to eat from every kind once a year.

The "internet version" contains a number of differences from the version in the Yerushalmi, though:

  • First, there is the added detail that this applies to fruit, specifically
  • Second, the coda regarding R. Lazer includes the elaboration "small coins, which he kept in a special pouch"
  • Finally, the description of R. Lazer eating "every kind, once a year" is transformed into "new fruits as they came in season."
  • And, of course, the most significant change is that the teaching is attributed to R. Abbun, rather than to R. Chizkiah.

Is there any traditional source for these elaborations, or for the attribution to R. Abbun? Or is this just a case of someone being creative and/or sloppy, and their text being uncritically accepted by others?

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  • @DoubleAA does the rewrite I just submitted address your suggestions?
    – mweiss
    Jan 14 at 3:18
  • @mweiss An excellent job. Well done. An answer is on the way.
    – Double AA
    Jan 14 at 4:40

1 Answer 1

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You have a sharp eye.

The origin of the practice of Tu Beshvat Seder is from the controversial 17th century work Chemdat Yamim (2:4:3:2-3). Let's see how he describes why he's inventing this:

ומנהג טוב להולכים בתמים להרבות בפירות בעצם היום הזה ולומר דברי שירות ותשבחות עליהן כאשר הנהגתי לכל החברים אשר עמדי, ועם כי בדברי כתבי הרב זלה''ה לא נמצא מנהג זה מכל מקום לדעתי תקון נפלא הוא בנגלה ובנסתר.‏
כי הנה הובא בירושלמי פרק עשרה יוחסין ז''ל, ישמעו ענוים וישמחו אמר ר' איבון עתיד אדם לתת דין וחשבון על שראה מיני מגדים ולא אכל, רבי אלעזר הוה מצמצם פריטי למיכל בהון מכל מילי חדש ע''כ, וטעם הדבר שכשם שהנהנה מן העולם הזה בלא ברכה נקרא גזלן מפני שעל ידי הברכה גורם להמשיך שפע עליון על ידי כח הברכות והשר הממונה על אותו הפרי הוא מתמלא משפע זה כדי לגדל הפרי שנית...‏
And it is a good custom for those who go simply (?) to maximize fruits on that very day and say songs and praises over them as I have enacted to all the colleagues who are with me, and even though in the writings of The Rabbi [Isaac Luria?] Z"L this custom does not appear, even so in my opinion it is an excellent fix (?) in revealed and hidden [parts of Torah].
For behold it is brought in the Yerushalmi in chapter [four of Kiddushin] thus: The humble shall hear and rejoice! R' Ibun said "In the future man will be judged and accounted for his seeing types of treats and not eating them; Rabbi Elazar would save money to eat with them from every new type." ... (my translation)

Now we know why this statement from the Yerushalmi Kiddushin wound up in many Tu Beshvat Seder collections. There are a number of differences in the text (without trying to find out which variants are older and/or better) which should help answer your questions.

First note the small change from חדא in our version to חדש in his version. There's your difference from "every kind, once a year" to "new fruits as they came in season". Indeed some (see Magen Avraham OC 235) bring this teaching specifically in the context of the blessing of Shehechiyanu on new fruits.

Now note the inclusion of the word מגדים which I've translated as treats. Rashi (Bereishit 24:53) explains that word as meaning fruits though Radak there says it can be any choice or sweet item.

However, recall the context of the Yerushalmi is a discussion of essential components of a human settlement without which one shouldn't consider it habitable. The previous line (at least in our editions, since we can't know what was in his edition) says:

אמר ר' יוסי בי ר' בון אף אסור לדור בעיר שאין בה גינוניתא של ירק.‏
Rebbi Yose ben Rebbi Abun said, also it is forbidden to dwell in a city which has no vegetable garden. (Sefaria's translation)

Accordingly, in context our statement seems to be praising the importance of plant-based food options.

Plus if you take the Shehechiyanu-new-fruit approach above, animal products are definitely excluded since they aren't seasonal and don't get a Shehechiyanu.

In short, while it's hard to definitively exclude delicious meats and cheeses from the statement on purely linguistic grounds, there's no doubt the statement is at least intended to apply to fruit.

Now did you notice R' Abbun show up twice already? Clearly in the Tu Beshvat Seder liturgy authors drew from the attribution used in the primary source of Tu Beshvat Sedarim; but note also that with the same name appearing one line earlier in the Yerushalmi there's something very suspicious about it showing up in this other variant.

Finally, you asked about a special pouch. Neither version so far has mentioned that, but there is a small difference in the verb there. Chemdat Yamim's version has מצמצם which means to minimize, in the sense that he saved money by not spending it elsewhere. But our version has מצמת which means to assemble or collect, in the sense of saving money by making a physical collection, plausibly in a pouch. And indeed in a version of this statement quoted by Raavad in Ba'al HaNefesh (Sha'ar HaKedusha) we find explicitly "היה מצמת פריטין בכיסיה he would collect coins in his pocket".

T"u ViShvat Sameach!

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