Tu b'Shvat 5777

Holiday #7 (217)

Tu B'Shvat 5777

Feb. 10-11, 2016

From the Chassidic Masters From Ascent Quarterly From the Kabbalists Some Laws and Customs
Come to ASCENT for "Mystical Tu'b Shvat Seder" #33"

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Tu B'Shvat

"...man is a tree of the field..." (Deut. 20:19)

A tree is constantly growing and so must we...a tree produces fruit and so must we...On Tu b'Shvat we must renew personal growth, just as the trees on Tu b'Shvat begin to draw moisture from the earth.

ROOT = connection to source = faith

TRUNK = main body = Torah study & observance

FRUIT = results = positive influence

from Likutei Sichos




One of the most important authorities on Jewish Law, the Magen Avraham, writes in his notes to the Code of Law (131:16): "It is the custom on Tu b'Shvat to eat many different kinds of fruit." The Kabbalistic celebration of Tu b'Shvat that originated in Zefat, as recorded in Pri Etz Hadar, a 50 page pamphlet presenting fruits to eat and passages to read arranged by anonymous student of a student of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria [1534-1572], the greatest Kabbalist of Tsfat, takes the form of a "seder," similar to Passover. Certain fruits are eaten in a particular order, accompanied by specific readings. Since not everyone can always find appropriate 30 Fruits (see below), we have designated the primary 12 fruits recommended for the Seder, corresponding to the 12 possible permutations of G-d's four-letter name, along with related verses and themes to focus on while eating which we have substituted for the lengthy Zohar passages of the original. Hopefully, you will find this Seder also to be a liberating, enlightening experience.

1) Gather a bunch of Jews. Each one should help with the preparations, including researching something to say.
2) Buy as many different fruits as you can (see "30 Fruits" below and the Ascent Seder fruit list). Make an extra effort to obtain the 12 listed in "The First Twelve" below.
3) Also buy at least two bottles of sealed kosher wine: one white, one red (see "Four Cups" below).
4) Bake (or purchase) cake or cookies or anything tasty that is made primarily from wheat flour.
5) Set the table festively--tablecloth, candles, flowers, etc.
6) BE SURE each participant knows which blessings to say before and after which foods. They are printed in every siddur. The ceremony is meaninngless without them. (see "Blessings" below).
7) Begin by serving the cake and saying the blessing for it, Mezonot.
8) On this occasion the blessing over fruit should certainly be said over one of those for which the land is specially praised (#2-6 in "The First Twelve"), either the one for which you have a strong preference or the one nearest the top of the list.
9) The first cup of wine should be poured at the beginning (see Four Cups). It may be blessed upon and drunk between the cake and the fruit, or after reaching grapes (#4 on the list).
10) Have a good time, but don't be too light-headed. This is a unique opportunity to effect awesome spiritual rectifications (see "Tikunim" and "Blessings").

#1 WHEAT is the basis for our sustenance (see Psalms 81:17; 104:15; 147:14), but only after we labor to grow, harvest, and prepare it.
[BARLEY, although not included in the seder, is one of the seven fruits for which Israel is praised. Often used for feeding animals. Its designation for the Omer offering inspires our efforts to harness our animalistic tendencies.]
#2 OLIVES yield the best of its oil only when the fruit is crushed. Olive oil floats on top of all liquids. [See also Jer. 11:16.]
#3 DATES are often a metaphor for the righteous (Ps. 92:13, Song 7:9), as the date tree is both lofty and fruit-bearing. Further, as the date tree is impervious to the changing winds, so too are the Jewish people.
#4 GRAPES can be turned into very different sorts of food (raisins) and drink (wine); so too, each Jew has the potential to be successful in some aspect of Torah and mitzvot observance and to be special in his or her own way. [See also Ps. 20:4; Hos. 9:10.]
#5 FIGS must be picked as soon as they ripen, for they quickly go bad. Simialrly, we must be quick to do mitzvot at hand before the opportunity "spoils." [See also Songs 2:10..]
#6 POMEGRANATES, it is said, have exactly 613 pips, equal to the number of mitzvot in the Torah. Try counting! In any case, "Even the least of Jews are as full of merit as a pomegranate is pips"-see Song 4:4, 6:7.
#7 ESROGIM [citrons] are considered to be an extremely beautiful fruit, and are of great importance at Sukkot time (see Lev 23:40 and commentaries). The esrog remains on the tree throughout the entire year, benefitting from all four seasons and unifying them.
#8 APPLES take 50 days to ripen. So too, the Jews ripened-and still ripen-during the 50 days from Pesach to Shavuot. And just as the apple tree produces fruit before leaves, so do Jews do mitzvot without pre-requisite of total understanding-"na'aseh v'nishmah." [See also Song 2:3]
#9 WALNUTS divide into four sections, corresponding to the four letters of G-d's name and the four legs of G-d's chariot (see Ezek. 1). As walnuts have two shells which have to be removed, one hard, one soft; we too have to undergo both physical and spiritual circumcision (see Deut. 30:6).
#10 ALMONDS signify enthusiasm in serving G-d, for the almond tree is always the first to bloom. This is why Aaron's rod sprouted specifically almond blossoms (Num. 17:23). [See also Jer 1:11-12-be sure to catch the "pun" in the original Hebrew.]
#11 CAROBS take longer to grow than any other fruit (there is a nice story about this in Taanit 23a). They remind us of the neceessity to invest many years in Torah-study in order to attain worthwhile clear understanding.
#12 PEARS of different strains still maintain a close affinity-see Mishna Kilayim 1:4.

Fruits grow beecause G-d wills so. Not to recognize this by (saying the proper) blessing is to put the entire Creation in jeopardy. -Pri Etz Hadar-

Moreover, the blessings before eating help us to focus our minds on the vital energy and potential for elevation of the food, not just its taste. To eat without pronouncing the appropriate blessing first constitutes theft; not only is it taking without proper acknowledgement, it is depriving the world of the divine beneficience that could have been channeled into it by means of the blessing.

Eating a fruit for the first time in its season is considered one of the appropriate occasions for the special blessing of joy, shehechiyanu. Everyone makes an effort to have available a fruit over which to make this blessing on Tu b'Shvat. By the way, if both the shehechiyanu and the blessing for the fruit, ha'etz, are being made over the same piece of fruit, most authorities state that the shehechiyanu should be said first: "Blessed are You...who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion."

TIKUNIM (spititual rectifications)
The flow of G-d's beneficence is called in Kabbalah the Tree of Life--the roots, above in G-d,; the fruit, here below. By eating fruit on this day we rectify and increase this flow. -Pri Etz Hadar-

While eating fruit on Tu b'Shvat, reflect on the sin of Adam and Chava, that they ate forbidden fruit, and intend to rectify it. -Rabbi Yitzchak Luria-

Rabbi Meir says: "The fruit of (the Tree of Knowledge of Good-and-Evil) was a grape..."; Rabbi Nechemia says: "It was a fig..."; Rabbi Yehuda says: "It was wheat..." -Talmud, Brachot 40a- (see there for reasons--notice that no one says APPLE!)

Rabbi Chaim Vital (main disciple of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) explained that there are 30 fruits which parallel the Ten Sephirot ("Divine Attributes") as they are manifested in each of the three lower of the four spiritual worlds. Atzilut-the World of Emanation-is too purely divine to have physical representation. Briah-the World of Creation-far removed from the realm of impurity, is represented by those fruits which are wholly edible.* Yetzirah-The World of Formation-a lesser level of purity, is represented by those fruits which all is eaten except for a pit on the inside, Asiyah-the World of Action-our realm where evil exerts a powerful attraction, is represented by those fruits which are enclosed in a totally inedible, proctective shell.

* Fruits with soft cores (apples, pears) and with cookable skins (lemons, oranges) are considered totally edible, even if those parts are undesirable.

FOUR CUPS OF WINE (or at least a few sips)
The spirit of the occasion includes drinking white wine at the beginning of the seder and red wine at the end. Some are accustomed to drink four cups, parallel to Passover night. The first is all white, the second mostly white, the third half-and-half, and the fourth mostly red. Why? - see the discussion of the Four Worlds in "30 Fruits" above.


"a land of wheat and barley, and (grape)vines, and figs, and pomegranates: a land of oil-olives and (date-) honey" [Deut. 8:8]

Charoset (for the Passover Seder) should be made from those fruits to which Israel is compared in Song of Songs... --Tosefot, Pesachim 116a

Rabbi Elazar would eat less and save money in order to be able to eat all the new fruits on Tu b'Shvat.

We have a tradition from our fathers to pray on Tu b'Shvat that G-d should make available for us a kosher and especially beautiful esrog in time for Sukkot. --Benei Yisasschar

After Sukkot we fry the esrog that we used for the Four Species, and on Tu b'Shvat we eat it. --Likutei Maharich

To eat many different fruits on this day and to recite various passages and praises while doing so...is a wonderful spiritual anchoring. --Pri Etz Hadar


– the place where it all started! –
Shabbat evening, Feb. 10, 2017

Some Laws and Customs -


The 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat is the official "birthday" for trees in Israel. Calculating the years of a tree is necessary for several mitzvot of the Torah: ma'asorot–tithing [of each year's fruit]; orlah-forbidden fruit of tree's first three years; reva'i-[redemption of] fruit of tree's fourth year; shmittah-the Sabbatical year. Tu b'Shvat is considered the beginning of the year for trees because it is the mid-point of winter: the strength of the cold becomes less, the majority of the year's rains (in Israel) have fallen, and the sap of the trees starts to rise. As a result, fruit begins to form. (Fruit that was already ripe is known to have been nurtured by the previous year's rain.)

The Code of Law states that on Tu b'Shvat fasting and eulogies are forbidden and all pentiential prayers are omitted. One of the most important authorities, the Magen Avraham, adds (131:16): "It is the custom to eat many different kinds of fruit."

The Kabbalistic clebration of Tu b'Shvat that originated in Zefat in the sixteenth century takes the form of a "seder," similar to Passover. Certain fruits are eaten in a particular order, accompanied by specific readings.

Chag Samayach - Have a joyous holiday!

The ASCENT staff


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