Tu b’Shevat is one of these hidden minor holidays, which haven’t gotten much attention until the last few decades. It is kind of a New Age, cutting age type of holiday with no ‘don'ts’ and not even any specific must ‘dos.’ If you are looking for spiritual renewal through mystical teachings, meditational practice and conscious mindful eating, then Tu b’Shevat has much to offer.
On Tu b'Shevat, the sap in the tree begins to flow once again to revitalize the tree. The secret of Tu b’Shevat gently whispers; “when everything looks dead, dark and murky, life, light and glory is hiding just below the surface.” The time when nothing seems to be happening on the outside is the beginning of the richest inner life. Tu b’Shevat begins a period of renewal for the individual and the community. On Tu b’Shevat we can tune into the redemption of spring. Even though we may be experiencing the winter of exile in both personal and collective stage of our lives on the outside, a new life force begins to emerge within our souls on the inside.
Tu b’Shevat – Celebrating the Fruits of the Land of Israel
Another reason why Tu b’Shevat is one of my favorite holidays is that it connects us to the fruits of the Land. The Torah singles out Seven Species through which the Land of Israel is praised:
“For Hashem your G-d is bringing you into a good land, a land of streams,
of wellsprings and underground waters that spring out of valleys and
hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates;
a land of olive oil and honey... You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless
Hashem your G-d for the good land that He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:9–10)
These Species are especially suited to the climate of the Land of Israel and grow abundantly even without additional irrigation. When blessing G*d for our food, the Seven Species take precedence. Even if you currently live outside of the Holy Land, one way to connect yourself to the Land of Israel is by partaking from these Seven Species especially on Tu b’Shevat.
The Tu b’Shvat Seder
The Tu b’Shevat Seder celebrates our yearning to return to the Land of Israel. The students of the Holy Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria in the 16th century, Sefad) compiled a Tu b’Shevat Seder somewhat similar to the Seder for Passover. It involves appreciating the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel. The Tu b’Shevat Seder is based primarily on Kabbalistic sources. Since the order and the contents of the Seder do not follow specific Jewish law, there is much room for flexibility and creativity for each of you to conduct the Seder in your own way.
Practical Guidelines for Conducting a TubShevat Seder
The Tu b’Shevat Fruit Seder facilitates partaking of the fruits of the Land in a mindful way, enjoying their colors, textures and tastes, while praising Hashem for the fruits with intentional blessings. For more than 30 years the special Tu b’Shevat Fruit Seder, which I enjoy with students, family and friends, is the centerpiece of my Tu b’Shevat celebration.
I recommend setting aside at least two hours to run a meaningful Tu b’Shevat Seder with enough time to share and discuss Torah about each of the fruits. Set your Tu b’Shevat table with four fruit platters arranged according to the Four Worlds. You can invite each of the participants to bring one kind of fruit and share insights about it. Be creative! You may decorate your table with fragrant flowers. Include songs and meditations of your choice between each of the sequences. Just as Passover is accompanied by the Hagadah, we have produced a Tu b’Shevat Seder Text, which includes texts with verses from the Bible and passages from the Oral Torah describing the various fruits. I included our beautifully illustrated Tu b’Shevat Hagaddah in my book, The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel where I also included additional teachings about the hidden holiday of Tu b’Shevat.
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