Tu B'Shevat: A Basic Introduction
Please Donate to Custom & Craft
Download your Service. We offer both printer-friendly and interactive version for your convenience.
We rely on support from users just like you! Please donate
today to keep maintaining this free resource!
Customandcraft.org is a fiscally sponsored project of Jewish Jumpstart (EIN: 26-2173175) which is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt California public benefit corporation. Your gift is tax deductible to the
extent allowed by law.
Share this Clip with your friends, family,
community and social networks with just one click.
Copy and paste the URL of this Clip to share or view.
Open in new window
Share This Clip on Social Networks
Tu B'Shevat: A Basic Introduction
Named for the 15th day of the month of Shevat, this festival is known as the New Year of the Trees or the Tree's Birthday. Although it's hard to believe when you live in New England. this time of year is beginning of spring in the Middle East. The first almond blossoms have opened and the sap in the trees is beginning to rise. Therefore, it's traditional to eat fruits from Israel on Tu B'Shevat: figs, dates, grapes, olives, pomegranates. It's also traditional to eat fruits you haven't tasted in a long time (or ever), and to say the Shehechiyanu (a prayer for experiencing something new.) While the holiday has changed over the centuries, today in the U.S., it is seen as a time to celebrate nature and affirm our relationship to the Earth.
Take a walk with friends or family. Plant a tree or some seeds. Make a family donation to your favorite environmental cause. Another beautiful action that is becoming more and more common is to have a Tu B'Shevat seder.
In the 16th century, Kabbalists, the Jewish mystics, created this seder with songs, readings, wine and fruits. Like the Passover seder, this one uses experiential learning, four cups of wine, and special foods. Each cup of wine represents different aspects of the fruit tree and fo ourselves. As the seder progresses, we change the color of the wine in the cups (like the changing of the seasons) - from the whiteness of winter to the fullness of spring. The color gets more and more red and we look forward to the fully red wine of the Passover seder.
Of course, there are many interpretations and ways to find meaning in a Tu B'Shevat seder. The cups can represent the tree's growth from seed to sapling, to continued growth, and to bearing fruit. Or they can symbolize the kinds of relationships we can have with Nature and with each other, even with Gold. There are four directions, the four seasons, and the four elements - all are possible interpretations.
The traditional Tu B'Shevat seder also includes a special order for eating different kinds of fruits, each kind representing our own spiritual growth. Before eating each kind of fruit, one thing some people do is to ask themselves or each other a spiritual question related to that kind of fruit. The seder here follows that model.
However you celebrate Tu B'Shevat, this holiday is an opportunity to savor and appreciate the bounty of this world, and to give thanks for all the ways that trees provide us with food, shelter, beauty, air and valuable life lessons.
Adapted from the following resources:
Trees, Creation, and Creativity: A Hillel Tu BiSh’vat Seder (Publication by the Hillel Foundation); The Trees Are Davening: A Tu BiSh’vat Haggadah Celebrating Our Kinship with the Trees and the Earth - Dr. Barak Gale and Dr. Ami Goodman (Publication by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life); Seder Tu Bishvat: The Festival of Trees – Adam Fisher (Publication by Central Conference of American Rabbis – 1989); Kesher: Berkely’s Reform Chavurah – Tu B’Shevat Seder.
Many thanks to Rabbi David Seidenberg (www.neohasid.org) for his help and input.
A beautiful ceremony marks the end of Shabbat on Saturday evening. This ending ritual is called Havdalah, which means separationor distinction in Hebrew. The Torah teaches that God created the world by making distinctions, first between light anddarkness, next between water and empty space, then between earth and water. The final distinction made in that week of creation was between regular time and holy time. Just as...
Nearly all Jewish holiday begin with lighting candles, and so this one will, too. After we light the candles we wave our hands in three big horizontal circles to symbolically bring the light closer to us, and then cover our eyes while we say the blessing. When the blessing is over take a moment of silent reflection with your eyes covered, and then open your eyes and enjoy the beauty of candlelight, bringing you into the...
ASK YOURSELF IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Like a mini-spiritual workout! You don’t have to answer every question, but tackling a few is impactful.
1) When do I feel that my life is most meaningful?
2) What would bring me more happiness than anything else in the world?
3) What are my three most significant achievements in the past year?
4) What are my biggest mistakes in the past year?
Wine or grape juice are also standards of nearly every Jewish holiday. Before we eat we take a moment to say a blessing over a glass of wine. In this special version Rosh Hashanah is called Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembering, and Yom Truah, the Day of Calling Out. Tonight during our meal we will do some remembering, and some calling out. We will also focus on the gratitude we feel for the past year, and all of the...
Unetaneh Tokef is a medieval prayer, of unknown authorship, recited in the Musaf Service of both Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur. Unetaneh Tokef affirms our own mortality, asking, “Who shall live and who shall die?” In it, we state that through teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer), and tzedakah (acts of justice) we can transform our destiny and give meaning to our lives.
We shall ascribe holiness...
Fasting on Yom Kippur is not as obvious as one might think. Nowhere does the Torah explicitly command it. Instead, the verses teach us to “afflict ourselves” without defining the nature of this “affliction.”
We do know that Yom Kippur is about atonement and forgiveness. So how does “afflicting” ourselves through fasting relate to teshuva ? Many assume that fasting is a form of...
by Rabbi Shoshana Friedman,
Temple Sinai, Brookline, MA
Holy One of Blessing!
Grant us strength to be part of a holy uprising
A resistance against the forces of destruction
For we stand in witness of the unity of Creation.
Grant us patience to work well with others
In groups of fellow uprisers
To honor and uplift Your sacred name.
Grant us wisdom to...