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
CELEBRATING TU B'SHVAT
THE TU B'SHVAT "SEDER" CELEBRATION
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
GUIDELINES FOR THE "SEDER"
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
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").
THE FIRST TWELVE
FRIUTS OF THE TU B'SHVAT "SEDER"
#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
#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.
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
#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
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]
(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.
After Sukkot we fry the esrog that we used for the
Four Species, and on Tu b'Shvat we eat it. --Likutei Maharich
many different fruits on this day and to recite various passages and praises while
doing so...is a wonderful spiritual anchoring. --Pri Etz Hadar
COME TO ZEFAT FOR
OUR FORTIETH ANNUAL
"KABBALISTIC TU B'SHVAT
– the place where it all started!
Sunday evening, Feb. 6, 2023
Some Laws and Customs -
AND JEWISH LAW
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."
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
for more Kabbalah insights on