On Tu B'Shevat we celebrate a New Year for the Trees, rejoicing in the fruit of the tree and the fruit of the vine, celebrating the splendid, abundant gifts of the natural world which give our senses delight and our bodies life.
Tu B'Shevat marks the beginning of spring in Israel. Sustaining rains are at the peak of their power and the world responds, brimming with buds of fragrant life. To mark this moment, school children plant trees. Often these trees have been provided by the contributions of Jewish students abroad through the good offices of the Jewish National Fund.
For Jews outside of Israel, Tu B'Shevat is a celebration of the renewal of vision and awareness, a celebration of connections and connectedness--to our own inner-selves, to the social world of human beings, and to the natural world and its Source.
The Tu B'Shevat Seder
In the 17th century, the Kabbalists, the Jewish mystics of Safed, developed a special seder (order service). Their efforts were influenced by the esoteric meaning in the verse Deuteronomy 20:19: "For man is like the tree of the field".
Modeled on the Passover seder, the Tu B'Shevat seder included drinking four cups of wine with varying percentages of red and white wine, representing perhaps the shifting of yearly seasons. The seder also included readings on trees and fruit from a range of Jewish literature.
The new form of celebration spread from Safed to Sephardi communities in Turkey, Italy and Greece, and later in Europe, Asia and North Africa. Modern adaptations of this centuries old practice have been created by Hillels, Jewish environmental groups and others involved in Jewish renewal.
Download Hillel's Tu B'Shevat Seder materials:
The Hillel Tu B'Shevat Seder (PDF file 580Kb)
The Hillel Tu B'Shevat Leaders Guide (PDF file 600Kb)
[Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader version 4.0 or higher.]
Virtual Jerusalem also has information about Tu B'Shevat and a seder at their Web site.
Preparation for the Tu B'Shevat Seder
You can download or print the seders from the links above.
In addition you will need to purchase both red and white wine and 15 different types of fruits and nuts; five from each of the following three categories:
1) fruits or nuts with an inedible outer shell and an edible inner core: pineapple, coconut, orange, pomello, banana, walnut, pecan, grapefruit, starfruit, pinenut, pomegranate, papaya, brazil nut, pistachio, or almond. (Note: purchase the whole fruit or nut so you can remove the outer shell during the seder).
2) fruits with edible outer flesh and pithy, inedible cores: olive, date, cherry, loquat, peach, apricot, jujub, persimmon, avocado. plum, or hackberry. (Note: purchase the whole fruit so you can remove the pit or core during the seder).
3) fruits which are edible throughout. Here no protective shells, neither internal nor external are needed. The symbolic fruits may be eaten entirely and include: strawberry, grape, raisin, fig, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, carob, apple, pear, kiwi or quince.
Follow the instructions in the seders and have a great time!
Learn more about Tu B'Shevat at MyJewishLearning.com
Tu B'Shevat Spiritual Check-Up