On Tu B’Shvat, you can ponder a world-full of fruits for hours.
Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the Trees. As in all other points in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into living and personal growth. Throughout the centuries, Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand God’s relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his 18th century classic The Way of God, teaches that the higher spiritual realms are roots that ultimately manifest their influence through branches and leaves in the lower realms.
In the 16th century, the Kabbalists of Tzfat compiled a Tu B’Shvat seder, somewhat similar to the seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel, and discusses philosophical and Kabbalistic concepts associated with the day. Among other things, the seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, and to develop a good and generous eye for the world around us.
The seder presented here is based primarily on the Kabbalistic work, Chemdat Yamim, later published separately under the title Pri Aitz Hadar.
To enjoy this experience in your own home, try to prepare the basic items mentioned below. Don’t worry if you can’t find all these items; do the best you can. Since the order and the contents of the seder do not follow a specific Jewish law, there is much room for flexibility and creativity.
You will need lots of fruit, including:
a. The seven species by which the Land of Israel is praised:
e. Grapes(or raisins)
f. wheat and barley (in the form of bread, cake or cereal)
b. Various nuts with the shells (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, coconut), and fruits with peels (oranges, pomegranates, avocado)
c. Other fruits with edible seeds (e.g. blueberries)
d. Other fruits with inedible pits (e.g. peaches, plums)
e. Wine or grape juice, both white and red
f. charity box
Important note: Since insects are not kosher, check your fruits to make sure they are bug-free. Bugs are especially common in figs, dates, and dried apricots. To check, split the fruit in half and look carefully before eating.
(2) THE SEDER BEGINS
The leader asks:
Why do we celebrate the New Year for fruit trees on Tu B’Shvat?
Since the Holy Temple was destroyed, the Jewish people could no longer bring the First Fruits (Bikkurim) to Jerusalem. On Tu B’Shvat we offer instead the fruit of our lips, to praise God for all the fruit trees in the world.
A participant says:
Tu Bishvat marks a new period for taking tithes, a portion of which is given to the poor. Therefore:
When a person is privileged to eat in the presence of God, he must show his appreciation by giving charity to the poor and feeding them, just as God in His bounty feeds him. ( Zohar – Parshat Trumah)
At this point it is appropriate to pass around a ‘pushka’ to collect tzedakah. After the seder, the money should be donated to a worthy cause.
– Copyrighted material used with permission from A Person is Like a Tree: A Sourcebook for Tu BeShvat, by Yitzhak Buxbaum (Jason Aronson Inc.), available from www.bn.com.
By: Yitzhak Buxbaum