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The mishnah in Rosh Hashana 1:3 lists the months when they would send messengers to notify people which day Rosh Chodesh was:

  • Nisan because of Pesach
  • Av because of Tisha Be'av
  • Elul because of Rosh Hashana
  • Tishrei because of Yom Kippur and Sukkos
  • Kislev because of Chanuka
  • Adar because of Purim
  • When the Beis Hamikdash was standing: Iyar because of Pesach Sheini

Why weren't messengers also sent for Rosh Chodesh Shevat so that people knew the boundary between the maaser crops for fruit trees? If they didn't know the correct date by Tu Bishvat, I assume they had to maintain three separate piles of fruit until the Adar messengers came: definitely last year, definitely this year, and a small pile of doubtful fruits that ripened on the day that might be Tu Bishvat.

  • Is that small pile of fruit worth it? Can you ever tell with precision exactly what day a fruit ripened? Any fruit ripening around now should be treated as Safek anyway. – Double AA Jan 8 at 15:02
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    It's pretty much just citrus fruits that are an issue now. Everything else is summer. Tu Bishvat is in the winter because that's not the growing season. That's the point. – Double AA Jan 8 at 15:12
  • @DoubleAA what citrus fruits did they have besides esrogim? For esrogim the answer is easy, you just don't pick them on the safek day and you're fine. – Heshy Jan 8 at 17:02
  • Jaffa oranges? No clue. Even if they had some it's not a major communal issue. – Double AA Jan 8 at 17:21
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I think there are a few factors that significantly mitigate the magnitude of the problem:

  • As indicated in comments by DoubleAA, most of Israel's major fruit crops' harvest seasons are not in Shevat-time. See, for example, this contemporary calendar, which lists months between June and October for figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. (It says "year-round" for grapes, but that's probably related to some modern innovations.) So, the species whose fruits would ripen on the uncertain date are likely few.

  • The cutoff date applies to the fruits' initial formation (חנטה), which is well before the fruit is harvested, giving time for the uncertainty to be resolved before Ma'aser has to be taken.

  • In the end, the problem would only apply to the produce of one day, and the solution would be to simply take Ma'aser for the fruit that formed on that day from other fruit that formed on that day.

All together, it seems that not sending messengers for Shevat wouldn't cause a large practical problem for the farmers of the Land of Israel.

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    I agree with (1) and (4). (2) doesn't really help and is actually a downside, because you have to somehow keep track of which fruits are which until it's time to take maaser (as opposed to if you could take it right away, in which case you could just do (4)). (3) seems not to be correct based on R"H 1:4. – Heshy Jan 22 at 18:44
  • @Heshy I've removed (3) per your correction. Thanks. Regarding (2), if you have fruits forming around the cut-off date, you need to mark them as they form in any case, to differentiate between before and after, since you have to wait for the fruits to fully ripen and get harvested before you apply Ma'aser to them. If there's uncertainty about the day of the cutoff, that just adds one additional category; it doesn't create the need for record-keeping. – Isaac Moses Jan 22 at 18:55

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