Tu BiShvat Seder – 5781 (Covid 19 Edition) part 2 of 5

Man’s very name – Adam אדם – is derived from the word Earth, אדמה. While man was once the pinnacle of creation, the master, and caretaker of the world; he is also dependent on the earth for his most basic needs. The Torah, in outlining the negative commandment of destroying fruit trees, refers to man himself as a “tree of the field”.

          דברים כ:יט

כי תצור אל עיר ימים רבים להלחם עליה לתפשה לא תשחית את עצה לנדח עליו גרזן כי ממנו תאכל ואתו לא תכרת, כי אדם עץ השדה לבא מפנך במצור:

When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Is the tree of the field a man, to go into the siege before you?(Devarim 20:19).

Our חכמים learn from this verse, a prohibition against any needless destruction. In other words, fruit trees serve as the archetype for man’s relationship and responsibility to his environment.

It was through a mistake in eating fruit that caused Adam and Chava’s exile גלות from Gan Eden. Eating fruit is a metaphor for our interaction with this world. Correct usage leads to a perfected world and spiritual bliss. Misuse leads to destruction and spiritual degradation. The seder of Tu B’Shvat is our opportunity to rectify the past iniquity and return once again to our rightful place within “The Garden”, which is in Eretz Yisrael.

Adam and Chava erred by eating, first, from the Tree of Knowledge עץ הדעת of Good and Evil. To correct this mistake, we eat our fruit today with pure intentions, as if from the Tree of Life עץ החיים.

Rabbi Chaim Vital wrote:

My teacher [the holy Arizal] used to say that one must intend while eating the fruits [at the Tu B’Shvat Seder] to repair תיקון, sin of Adam who erred by eating fruit from the tree.

Partaking in the physical world inappropriately, for its own sake, lowers us spiritually and diminishes our enjoyment. The solution is to engage in the physical world as a means to a worthy end – i.e. appreciating the greatness of G-d who created all.

In the Talmud Yerushalmi, Rabbi Ibbun said: In the next world, a person will be judged for all the fine fruit that he saw but did not eat. Rabbi Elazar fulfilled this teaching. Although he was very poor, he saved up small coins which he kept in a special pouch, to purchase new fruits as they came into season. He tried to make a blessing over every kind of fruit at least once a year.

Why is one held accountable for not eating a new fruit when presented with the opportunity?

Each life form, even fruit, is entrusted to a specific angel. By saying a blessing over a fruit, we empower that angel to reproduce more of that fruit. One who refrains from partaking of a fruit deprives the world of the spiritual influence that the blessing would have provided (Chemdat Yamim).

The Talmud says that someone who eats and doesn’t say a blessing is considered a thief. Why?

Every aspect of G-d’s creation is inherently holy. So when one eats a piece of fruit, he is depriving the world of a piece of holiness. A blessing re-infuses the world with holiness. Eating without a blessing, however, lowers the level of holiness in the world without replacing the loss – and is regarded as theft (Maharal of Prague).

The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus, was once visiting the home of Rabbi Yaakov Koppel. When Rabbi Yaakov danced in front of his Shabbos table for an hour, the Baal Shem Tov asked to explain this unusual custom. Rabbi Yaakov replied: Before I taste physical food, I absorb the food’s spiritual essence. In doing so, I become so excited that I sing and dance!

Everything in the physical world is a metaphor for a deeper spiritual concept.

Eating is to the body, what knowledge is to the soul. When we eat, we internalize the good part of the food – and through that we grow and develop. Similarly, when we learn a new piece of information, we must chew it over, digest it, and integrate it into our very being. Only then can we truly grow in wisdom and spirituality.

 

GRAIN PRODUCTS מזונות

Have in mind: To Fix the Sin of Adam with the Tree in Gan Eden

לכוין: אכילת פירותיהן לתיקון חטא אדם הראשון, אשר חטא בפירות האילן.

 

  1. Wheat – חטה

Wheat and barley are the first two of the seven species connected to the greatness of the Land of Israel, as it says:

            דברים ח:ח

            אֶ֤רֶץ חִטָּה֙ וּשְׂעֹרָ֔ה וְגֶ֥פֶן וּתְאֵנָ֖ה וְרִמּ֑וֹן אֶֽרֶץ זֵ֥ית שֶׁ֖מֶן וּדְבָֽשׁ:

A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives and honey (Devarim 8:8).

We begin by eating bread or cake. When Tu B’Shvat falls on Shabbis, it is appropriate to incorporate the seder into one of the Shabbis meals, using challah as the bread.

Before saying the blessing, let us pause and reflect on our good fortune. G-d has given us innumerable blessings, enabling us to enjoy this food. G-d could easily have arranged for humans to be nourished by photosynthesis like plants, or by eating bland oatmeal, or by taking pills. Instead, He created a seemingly endless variety of appetizing and nourishing foods for us to enjoy. He gave us taste buds, and many miraculous organs with which to eat and digest the food.

A blessing is a thank-you note to our Creator. The sages say: Who is the wealthy person? The one who is happy with what he has.

משנה אבות ד:א

איזהו עשיר? השמח בחלקו, שנאמר:(תהלים קכח ב): “יגיע כפיך כי תאכל אשריך וטוב לך”.

Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his circumstance, as it’s stated (Tehillim 128:2) “ The labor of your hands, when you eat, your are praiseworthy, and it is well with you”.

The more we appreciate our gifts, the more sincere is our thanks, and the more sublime is our pleasure.

If eating cake or cereal, recite the following blessing:

            ברוך אתה ה’, אלקינו מלך העולם, בורא מיני מזונות.

Blessed are you G-d, King of the Universe, Who creates species of nourishment.

If eating bread, begin with the pouring water over each hand 2-3 times, and then raise the wet hands up into the air, and say:

ברוך אתה ה’, אלקינו מלך העולם, אשר קידשנו במצותיו, וציוני על נטילת ידים.

Increased in blessing are You, our G-d, King of the Universe, who blessed us with His commandments, and commanded us to raise our hands.

As we raise our hands, we remind ourselves that the food we are about to eat – even though it was made by a human being – ultimately comes from God. As the verse says: “He would feed him with the finest wheat; and from a rock with honey I would sate you“.(Tehillim 81:17).

תהילים פא: יז

          ויאכיליהו מחלב חטה, ומצור דבש אשביעך:

 

Without speaking from the time of the washing, we then recite the blessing on the bread:

ברוך אתה ה’ , אלקינו מלך העולם, המוציא לחם מן הארץ.

Increased in blessing are you G-d, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from The Land [of Eretz Yisrael].

The verse says: ‘When you eat the bread of the Land [of Israel], you shall bring an offering to G-d’ (Bamidbar 15:19).

          במדבר טו: יט

וְהָיָ֕ה בַּֽאֲכָלְכֶ֖ם מִלֶּ֣חֶם הָאָ֑רֶץ תָּרִ֥ימוּ תְרוּמָ֖ה לַֽה’:

This refers to the waving (tenufah ,תנופה) of the Omer. Tenufah can be read as tenu feh ,תנו פה– give a mouth. The mouth is symbolic of the honor we give to G-d. Hence the Omer was waved to show that we give to G-d this mouth. Since the main praise of G-d is when the Jewish people give Him honor and glory.

Why was the Omer made from barley and not from wheat? Because barley ripens first. Wheat (חיטה) is the more perfect food, being symbolic of the elimination of sin (חטא). There are those who say that wheat is the plant with which Adam sinned ( Zohar – Balak 189a).

Savor each bite of the cake or bread. Appreciate that G-d loves us and created everything for our good.

 

FRUIT פרי העץ

On Tu B’Shvat, we eat the fruit by which God Himself praises the Land of Israel. As the verse says: The trees have borne their fruit, fig tree and vine have yielded their strength. Children of Zion be happy, rejoice in the L-rd, your G-d. (Yoel 2:22-23)

            יואל ב: כב

אַל תִּֽירְאוּ֙ בַּֽהֲמ֣וֹת שָׂדי כִּ֥י דָֽשְׁא֖וּ נְא֣וֹת מִדְבָּ֑ר כִּֽי עֵץ֙ נָשָׂ֣א פִרְי֔וֹ תְּאֵנָ֥ה וָגֶ֖פֶן נָֽתְנ֥וּ חֵילָֽם: וּבְנֵ֣י צִיּ֗וֹן גִּ֚ילוּ וְשִׂמְחוּ֙ בַּֽה’ אֱלֹֽהקיכֶ֔ם כִּֽי נָתַ֥ן לָכֶ֛ם אֶת הַמּוֹרֶ֖ה לִצְדָקָ֑ה וַיּ֣וֹרֶד לָכֶ֗ם גֶּ֛שֶׁם מוֹרֶ֥ה וּמַלְק֖וֹשׁ בָּֽרִאשֽׁוֹן:

Fear not, O beasts of the field, for the dwelling places of the wilderness have become covered with grass, for the trees have borne their fruit, the fig tree and the vine have given forth their strength. And the children of Zion, rejoice and jubilate with Hashem your G-d, for He gave you the teacher for justification, and He brought down for you rain, the early rain and the late rain in the first month.

The order of eating the fruits of Eretz Yisrael should be: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates.

Say the following blessing and then eat an Olive:

ברוך אתה ה, אלקינו מלך העולם, בורא פרי העץ.

Increased in blessing are you G-d, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.

If there is a seasonal fruit at the table which you have not yet tasted this season, say the following additional blessing before eating the fruit:

ברוך אתה ה, אלקינו מלך העולם, שהחיינו וקיימנו והיגיינו בזמן בזה.

Increased in blessing are You G-d, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

Take each fruit one by one, as the appropriate paragraph below is recited. Enjoy the many unique flavors and textures. Reflect on the reality that the Creator of time and space wants us to take pleasure in everything that He put into the world.

 

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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