Tu B’Shevat Haggadah/Guide

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Jewish Holidays, Tu B'Shevat

Tu B’Shevat “Tasting” Seder

Rabbi Barbara Aiello

WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR YOUR TU B’SHEVAT SEDER:

Candles, candle holders and matches

Kiddush cup and small cups for guests
Four types of wine or juice – white, red, rose`(pink)
Fruits (see text to make your choices)
Readings or poems about trees
Song selections

Opening Song: Hi Ne Ma Tov
Light two candles and make the blessing:

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, asher qiddeshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu lehadliq ner shel Yom Tov

Make this blessing: SHEHECHEYANU:

 

 

 


Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, she’hehiyanu v’kiy’manu v’higi’anu la‑z’man ha‑ze.

Tu B’Shevat: New Year of the Trees
The words Tu B’Shevat literally mean “the fifteenth [day in the month] of Shevat.” More than any other Jewish holiday, Tu B’Shevat has evolved over two thousand years of Jewish history.

Originally, in ancient times – Tu B’shevat was TAX DAY – to pay the government for the number of trees you had on your property and for the amount of fruit you were able to harvest from then.

Later, the Kabbalistis, the Jewish mystics, developed a Tu B’shevat Seder. In the 1500’s the famous Rabbi Isaac Luria wanted to do something positive in reaction to the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain – so they created the Tu B’Shevat Seder as a way to teach about Tikkun Olam, respect for and repair of the world. They created the idea of the Cosmic Tree.

However, the seder idea didn’t catch on until much later, when the Zionist movement taught Jews about the land of Israel and how important tree planting was to making the land green and fertile. Then, in 1948, with the creation of the State of Israel everything came together. – planting trees, and respect for the environment. A Jewish Earth Day evolved and the Seder became popular again.

For Adonai your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey. -Deuteronomy 8:7-8

The Seven Species
come directly from the Torah. Collectively these seven fruits and grains called, in Hebrew shivat haminim, the Seven Species are sacred fruits and grains grown in the Land of Israel. Some of these are part of the three fruit groups of the Seder.
Wheat
Wheat corresponds to chesed (kindness). The characteristic of chesed is expansion, to reach out and extend oneself toward others. Wheat likewise reflects the nourishing food of kindness and to this day remains our main sustaining food staple. Maimonides taught that wheat strengthens the body and when we share our “wheat” we are expressing chesed.
Barley
Barley corresponds to gevura (restraint). Its characteristic is setting boundaries … the way each barley seed is enclosed in a strong hull – the boundary… which remains intact even during threshing. Reminds us that articulating expectations …”setting boundaries,” fosters honest relationships.
Grapes
Grapes grow in beautiful clusters and correspond to tiferet (beauty). This trait is characterized by the balance between its different components –We ae a combination of our best features and our less attractive ones – like the grapes themselves… a combination of the fruit itself and the seeds.
Figs
Figs correspond to netzach (endurance), and corresponds to longevity. The fig tree reflects everlasting fruitfulness as it has one of the longest periods of ripening, a period that lasts more than three months. Our ages taught that we need to watch the fig tree very carefully. We pick the figs daily, since they ripen one after the other. So should we observe our teachers daily in order to glean the fruits of their wisdom.
Pomegranates
Pomegranate is a very beautiful and majestic fruit that even has a crown. It corresponds to hod, which means majesty and glory. Hod is also related to the Hebrew word toda which means gratitude and recognition.
Olives
Olive oil corresponds to yesod (foundation). Olive oil is the foundation of most Mediterranean foods. Maimonides explains that olive oil is cleansing, … giving our bodies a fresh start, or a new foundation.
Dates
Dates correspond to malchut (kingdom). Malchut is related to usefulness. The date palm tree has no waste, its hearts are used for prayer (lulav), its fronds for shade, its fibers for ropes, and its beams for houses.
Likewise the people of Israel have no waste: they each master their own particular part of Torah learning or perform mitzvot and charitable deeds.

Eating is a Way to Perfect the World

The Torah mentions the seven species because these foods are central to a Jewish spiritual path. Eating the seven species in a conscious way can promote our well-being, help us connect to the land of Israel, and deepen our relationship with God.

Each of the seven species contains deep lessons about God and our spiritual lives. Every time we eat them we have the opportunity to tune into their spiritual messages, eat consciously, and bring the world a step closer to its perfected state.

SING: HaMotzi Lechem in Haretz
Yom Huledet Sameach… Happy Birthday to the Trees

In the Bible, the Hebrew word for tree is Etz, and it appears over 150 times in our Tanak. In addition, more than 100 different kinds of trees and plants are named in the Bible. When we add the Talmud and other important Jewish books, over 500 different plants are mentioned in classical Jewish sources.

What are trees?

Trees are the tallest and longest living plants on the earth. It’s easy to forget how big trees really are. We have buildings that are bigger but in ancient times, the tallest thing you could see was a tree!

(Ask the group to share memories about trees. Did you climb a tree? Did your tree have a swing or hammock? Did you make a treehouse? Did you eat fruit from your tree? Cherries? Apples? Pears?)

POEM: “Only God Can Make a Tree” or “Trees” by Chief Dan George

The Tu B’Shevat Seder demonstrates our respect for all of nature, and our love for trees and all they do for us. We drink four different cups of wine (or juice). The first cup represents winter. The juice or wine is a white color is a reminder of the cold.

1. Pass out the white grape juice or wine. Lift the Kiddush cup and guests lift the cup as well and say:

 

 

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, bo’re p’ri ha’gafen.

2. Take one of the fruits from the first group in hand. These are fruits with hard shells/coverings /skins: ORANGES, COCONUTS, PINEAPPLE.

3. Hold plate and make the blessing:

 

 

Barukh atah Adonai, Elohenu melekh ha’olam, borei pri ha’etz.
Praised are You, Adonai, our God, Sovereign over all, that creates the fruit of the tree.

4. The first group – Fruits with hard shells or coverings inedible shells or skins. Fruit of this type, such as oranges, coconuts or pineapple, symbolize earth’s protection.

5. Ask the group: How can we protect the earth ? As we grow older and our faces “harden” we encourage ourselves to focus on the inner beauty of our own faces and the faces loved ones.

TASTE THE FRUIT FROM GROUP 1

Rabbi Nachman’s Poem

*******

1. Pass out the white grape juice or wine and hold the cup to make the blessing: Say, “Now it’s early spring but the weather is cool, so we take a drop of red wine or juice and add it to the white wine/juice. “Now it’s getting warmer!”
Lift the Kiddush cup and guests lift the cup as well and say:

 

 

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, bo’re p’ri ha’gafen.

2. Take in hand the fruit from the SECOND GROUP. These are fruits with a soft outside and a hard inside (olives dates, apricots, avocados or cherries) Hold plate and make the blessing:

3. Remind the group that the second type of fruit, is fruit with a soft outside and a hard inside, like olives, apricots, avocados, dates or cherries. The core symbolizes re-growth and a strong heart.

4. We have a strong character, sense of justice, but move forward softly, with love and compassion. “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.”

5. Ask the group: Do you know someone who demonstrated a strong character but moved forward with calm and compassion? What did he or she do that impressed you?

TASTE THE FRUIT FROM GROUP 2 Sing Lo Yisa Goy, Prophet Micah
LO YISA GOY

Lo yisa goy
El goy cherev
Lo yil’medu
Od milchamah.
(x2)
A nation shall not raise
A sword against a nation
And they shall not learn
Any more war.
(x2)

*****

1. Now it is time for the red grape juice/wine –Why? We have arrived at the summer season. The red juice or wine reminds us that the weather is getting warmer.
Lift the Kiddush cup and make the blessing:

 


Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, bo’re p’ri ha’gafen.

2. Take in hand the fruit from Group 3. These are the fruits of the summer season and they can be eaten whole, such as blueberries, black berries, raspberries, strawberries, seedless grapes and figs. Lift the plate and make the blessing:

 


Barukh atah Adonai, Elohenu melekh ha’olam, borei pri ha’etz.

Tell the group that the fruits from Group 3 symbolize the whole of our Judaism which is Torah and that a person’s fruits are her or his good deeds. Ask the group, ”Have you ever benefitted from a friend or family member’s good deed?” “Why is Torah so important in the lives of Jewish people?”

TASTE THE FRUIT FROM GROUP 3

Sing Etz Haim Hi and or recite this prayer: “May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the first human beings Adam and Eve … may all of these sparks of light be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life.

******

We sanctify the day with the last Kiddush Blessing – a remembrance of autumn and the coming of Rosh HShanah:
The Fourth Cup of Wine or Juice (Rose’ wine or a pink juice to represent auturm:
Lift the cups and make the blessing:

 

 

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, bo’re p’ri ha’gafen.

Drink the fourth cup –and toast: L’Chaim
To Life to Life L’chaim … L’chaim L’chaim to Life – it gives us something to think about, something to drink about.. DRINK L’CHAIM TO LIFE!

Continue to taste the fruits as the appetizer.

The Kabbalists tell us to taste these remaining fruits in order, Group 1, then Group 2 and then the fruits of Group 3.
Why? The Kabbalists tell us that eating the seder fruits in this proscribed order creates a connection between our souls and the Tree of Life that God placed in Gan Eden/The Garden of Eden. By eating the fruits in this order we become spiritual “time travelers,” moving from the most external dimensions of reality (fruits with a shell) to an inner dimension of “wholeness,” symbolized by the fruits that are completely edible.

Conclude with the Kohanim Blessing:
The Kohanim Blessing
Ye-va-rach-ah Adonai ve-yish-me-recha
Ti benedica Dio e ti costudisca
May G-d bless you and keep you
Y-eir Adonai pa-nav ei-lech-cha vi-chu-necha
Rivolga Dio il Suo volto verso di te, e ti dia grazia
May the light of G-d shine upon you
and may G-d be gracious to you

Yi-sa Adonai pa-nav ei-le-cha ve-ya-seim le-cha shalom
Rivolga Dio il Suo volto verso di te e ti conceda la pace
May G-d’s presence be with you and give you peace. AMEN
Sing HEVEINU SHALOM ALEICHEM or another song you know

READINGS:
Reb Nachman’s Prayer
Master of the Universe,
Grant me the ability to be alone:
Give me strength to go outdoors each day
Among the trees and grass – among all growing things,
And there may I be alone, and enter into prayer
To talk with the One to whom I belong.
When I am outdoors, may I express everything that is my heart,
And may all the grasses, trees, plants and flowers
Awake at my coming, to send the powers of
nature’s life into the words of my prayer
In the life and spirit of all growing things
I place my soul as well. AMEN

Joyce Kilmer, 1886–1918 – Only God Can Make a Tree
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day, 5
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.

And my heart soars.
—Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh (1899-1981)

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