Tu B’Shvat Seder — The Holy Trees Of Israel

INTRODUCTION

Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the Trees ראש השנה לאילנות. As in all other points in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into living in Israel and personal growth. Throughout the centuries, Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand G-d’s relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his 18th century classic The Way of God דרך ה’, teaches that the higher spiritual realms חלקי הבריאה are roots that ultimately manifest their influence through branches and leaves (like an inverted tree) into the lower realms.

In the 16th century, the Kabbalists of Tzfat compiled a Tu B’Shvat Seder, somewhat similar to the Seder for Pesach (which falls out sixty days later on the calendar). It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, especially those that are native to the Land of Israel (שבעת המינים), and discusses philosophical and Kabalistic concepts associated with the day. Among other things, the Seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted in Israel, and to develop a good and generous eye for Eretz Yisrael.

(Based on the Kabalistic work, Chemdas Yamim, Published under the title Pri Eitz Hadar, www.aish.com, Pirchei Shoshanim).

PREPARATIONS

Fruit:

The seven species by which the Land of Israel is praised:

      1. Figs תאנה
      2. Dates תמר
      3. Pomegranates רמון
      4. Olives זית

          5. Grapes(or raisins)גפן

           6. wheat and

7. barley (in the form of bread, cake) חיטה, שעורה

Various nuts with the shells (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, coconut), and fruits with   peels (oranges, pomegranates, avocado)

Other fruits with edible seeds (e.g. blueberries)

Other fruits with inedible pits (e.g. peaches, plums)

Wine or grape juice, both white and red Tzedaka box

The Tu B’Shvat Seder

Q: Why do we celebrate the New Year for fruit trees ראש השנה לאילנות , on Tu B’Shvat?

A: Since the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, the Jewish people can no longer bring the First Fruits of the Land of Israel (Bikurim) to Yerushalayim. On Tu B’Shvat, we offer instead the fruit of our lips, prayers to praise G-d for all the fruit trees in Eretz Yisrael.

Ma’aser

Tu B’Shvat marks the new period for taking ma’aser מעשר, a portion of which is given to the poor. Therefore, when a person is privileged to eat in the presence of G-d, he must show his appreciation by giving tzedakah to the poor and feeding them, just as G-d in His bounty feeds us. ( Zohar – Parshas Trumah)

(Pass around the tzedakah box and everyone puts in a coin).

Mishnah About Tu B’Shvat

The Mishnah in Tractate Rosh HaShana states that Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the TREE (singular).

משנה ראש השנה א:א

באחד באלול ראש השנה למעשר בהמה; רבי אלעזר ורבי שמעון אומרים: באחד בתשרי. באחד בתשרי ראש השנה לשנים ולשמטין וליובלות, ולנטיעה ולירקות. באחד בשבט ראש השנה לאילן ;כדברי בית שמאי. בית הלל אומרים: בחמישה עשר בו.

On the first of Elul is the Rosh HaShana (New Year) for ma’aser (giving 10% to G-d) of the animals. Rav Eliezer and Rav Shimon say: it’s rather on the first of Tishrei. On the first of Tishrei is the New Year for counting years, Shmittah, Yovel, and planting vegetables. On the first of Shvat is the New Year for the tree; according to Beis Shammai. Beis Hillel say: it’s on the fifteenth of the month of Shvat (Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1:1).

This reference to a singular tree alludes to “The Tree”, the Tree of Knowledge עץ הדעת in Gan Eden and the ten Kabalistic Sefiros.

            בראשית א:יא

ויאמר אלקים תדשא הארץ דשא עשב מזריע זרע עץ פרי עשה פרי למינו אשר זרעו בו על הארץ, ויהי כן:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed yielding herbs and fruit trees producing fruit according to its kind in which its seed is found, on the earth,” and it was so (Bereishis 1:11).

  • “Fruit tree”, means the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which put forth blossoms and fruit.
  • “Producing fruit”, refers to a Tzadik, the basis for the daily existence of the world.
  • “To its kind”, refers to all of the human beings who have in them the spirit of holiness ;קדושה which is the blossom of the tree.

The Tzadik generates kedusha (holiness) by performing mitzvos and the tree conceives and brings forth fruit of its kind ( Zohar – Bereishis 33a).

According the Chessed L’Avraham, all Jews living in Israel are considered Tzadikim. The spiritual mannah from the time the Jews were in the midbar, still exists today, in the fruits of Eretz Yisrael.

We are Eating the Fruit of The Holy Land

We have in mind that we are at the celestial table before G-d, in the Garden of Eden before the Divine Presence רוח הקודש ( Raishis Chochma – Shar HaKedusha).

Here in the Land of Israel we are in the company of G-d. We are experiencing the sublime spiritual pleasure of a relationship with the Creator Himself, in the actual Palace of The King.

Meat vs. Fruit

When Adam and Chava were in Gan Eden, they were permitted to eat only fruits and vegetables. Only after Noach’s Flood did G-d permit them to eat meat. It is it considered spiritually higher to eat meat. Eating meat facilitates simcha and is the source for our Karbanos. However, we also have Karbanos of the Bikurim; the first fruits of Eretz Yisrael.

The Tree of Knowledge

There were two trees in the center of the Garden: the Tree of Life עץ החיים (representing Torah and eternal life) and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil עץ הדעת (representing death and distortion). The power of evil manifested in Amalek and Haman came from the ((המן העץ עץ הדעת. Amalek attacked the Jews who exited Egypt to prevent them from making Aliyah. Haman also tried to destroy the Jews and prevent the rebuilding of the Second Beis Hamikdash. The Jewish nation needs to make Aliyah in order to facilitate the building of the Third Beis Hamikdash (Rav Teichtal, Eim Habonim Semaicha).

Another way of expressing this distinction is that the Tree of Life is objective wisdom, while the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is personal experience. Adam and Chava made the mistake to eat from the עץ הדעת first. They were supposed to eat from the Tree of Life first and then from the Tree of knowledge. This teaches us that having a “seder” in life (a clear order) is crucial in order to have a meaningful connection with    G-d.

Man’s very name אדם , is derived from the word Earth, אדמה. While man is at once the pinnacle of creation, the master and caretaker of the world; we are also dependent on Eretz Yisrael for our 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 מפניך 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. After conquering the Land of Israel the Torah commands us to plant Trees in the Land. The Rambam teaches us to emulate G-d. Just as He has mercy רחמים , so do we show mercy. This can be demonstrated through the act of planting fruit trees in Israel.

It was through a mistake in eating a forbidden fruit that caused Adam and Chava’s exile גלות from the Garden of Eden and this brought death to the world. 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 of Eden, which is Eretz Yisrael the land of the living, ארץ החיים.

Rectify the Sin of Adam and Chava

Today we try to rectify (Tikun) the sin of Adam and Chava who 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 eating 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 the 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, in Eretz Yisrael, as a means to a worthy end; i.e. appreciating the greatness of G-d who created all and specifically gave us this Land in order to serve Him.

Enjoy the Fruits of This world

In the Talmud, Rabbi Abbun 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?

Because 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 ( Chemdas Yamim ). Fruit are sometimes the gilgul of soul (reincarnation). When we make a brochah on that fruit, that specific soul is now able to be “fixed” on go on to the next level of holiness (Sha’ar Hagilgulim).

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

PART I

Parallel to the four cups of Pesach, we pour the first of the four cups.

The first Cup

Fill the cup with only white wine, but do not drink it. Our seder/order for eating food, is based on the Holy seven species of Eretz Yisrael.

GRAIN PRODUCTS – חיטה

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

            אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן אֶֽרֶץ־זֵית שֶׁמֶן 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 חיטה\שערה. 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 bracha, pause and reflect on our good fortune. G-d has given us innumerable blessings, enabling us to live in Israel and enjoy the food of Eretz Yisrael. G-d could easily have arranged for us to be nourished by eating bland foods. 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 our food.

A blessing is a thank you to our Creator. The sages say in Pirkei Avos: Who is the wealthy person? The one who is happy with what he has. The more we appreciate our gifts, the more sincere is our thanks, and the more sublime is our pleasure.

If eating cake, 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.

We remind ourselves that the food we are about to eat, even though it was made by a human being, food ultimately comes from G-d. As the pasuk in Tehilim says:

תהילים פא: יז

וַיַּֽאֲכִילֵהוּ מֵחֵלֶב חִטָּה וּמִצּוּר דְּבַשׁ אַשְׂבִּיעֶֽךָּ:

Then He would feed them with the fat of wheat and I would sate you with honey from a rock (Tehilim 81:17).

If eating bread, begin with the washing of the hands, two or three times on both hands and say:

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם, אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציונו, על נטילת ידים.

Blessed are you G-d, King of the Universe, Who made us holy with His commandments and commanded us in the raising of the hands.

The blessing is not on washing our hands; it is rather on the raising of our hands prior to the performance of holy action. Similarly, on Succos we make the blessing על נטילת לולב , to “raise” the Lulav bundle in prayer; we don’t wash the Lulav.

All the Bread In the World Is Blessed From Eretz Yisrael

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.

Blessed are you G-d, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from The Land.

The Vilna Gaon, the Gra, points out that every blessing on bread recognizes that the source of blessing for bread of the entire world is from The Land of Eretz Yisrael. The blessing on bread is הארץ not האדמה (from the Land of Israel, not from the ground). This is why the blessing states “from The Land”, not from the earth/world, as commonly mistranslated.

The Omer

The pasuk says, that when we the bread of the Land, we shall bring an offering to G-d; this refers to the karban HaOmer.

          במדבר טו:יח-יט

דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָֽמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם בְּבֹֽאֲכֶם אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מֵבִיא אֶתְכֶם שָֽׁמָּה: וְהָיָה בַּֽאֲכָלְכֶם מִלֶּחֶם הָאָרֶץ תָּרִימוּ תְרוּמָה לַֽה’:

Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them, When you arrive in the Land to which I am bringing you: and you eat from the bread of the Land, you shall set aside a gift for Hashem (Teruma) (Bamidbar 15:19).

This refers to the waving (tenufah) of the Omer. Tenufah can be read as tenu feh – give a mouth. The mouth is symbolic of the honor we give to God. Hence the Omer was waved to show that we give to G-d our mouth, since the chief 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 was 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

Those Jews Who live in Israel Rejoice Over The Fruit

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…Children of Zion be happy, rejoice in the Hashem, your G-d.

יואל ב:כב-כג

אַל תִּֽירְאוּ בַּֽהֲמוֹת שָׂקי כִּי דָֽשְׁאוּ נְאוֹת מִדְבָּר כִּֽי עֵץ נָשָׂא פִרְיוֹ תְּאֵנָה וָגֶפֶן נָֽתְנוּ חֵילָֽם: וּבְנֵי צִיּוֹן גִּילוּ וְשִׂמְחוּ בַּֽה’ אֱלֹֽקיכֶם כִּֽי נָתַן לָכֶם אֶת הַמּוֹרֶה לִצְדָקָה וַיּוֹרֶד לָכֶם גֶּשֶׁם מוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ 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 the 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 (Yoel 2:22-23)

The order סדר of eating the fruit should be: 1) olives, 2) dates, 3) grapes, 4) figs, 5)pomegranates.

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.

Olives –זית

G-d called your name, a green olive tree, a nice and beautiful fruit.

ירמיהו יא:טז

זַיִת רַֽעֲנָן יְפֵה פְרִי תֹאַר קָרָא ה’ שְׁמֵךְ לְקוֹל  הֲמוּלָּה גְדֹלָה הִצִּית אֵשׁ עָלֶיהָ וְרָעוּ דָּלִיּוֹתָֽיו:

A leafy olive tree fair with goodly fruit, has Hashem called your name; to the sound of a great tumult, He has kindled fire upon it, and they have broken its branches (Yirmiyahu 11:16).

Say the following blessing (have all the other tree fruits in mind) and then eat the Olive:

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

Blessed are you God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.

Like the olive tree, even in our old age, we should be strong and not weak.

תהילים קכח: ג

אֶשְׁתְּךָ כְּגֶפֶן פֹּֽרִיָּה בְּיַרְכְּתֵי בֵיתֶךָ בָּנֶיךָ כִּשְׁתִלֵי זֵיתִים סָבִיב לְשֻׁלְחָנֶֽךָ:

Your wife will be as a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table (Tehilim 128:3).

Rabbi Yehoshuah Ben Levi said: Why are the Bnei Yisrael compared to an olive tree? Because just as the leaves of an olive tree do not fall off either in summer or winter, so too the Jewish people shall not be cast off, neither in this world nor in the World to Come. (Talmud, Menachos 53b).

The Sages taught: Just as olive oil brings light into the world, so do the people of Yisrael bring light into the world. (Midrash, Shir HaShirim Raba 1:2)

Dates – תמר

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. The righteous are fruitful and sweet, just like a date palm.

תהילים צב:יג

צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּֽה:

The Tzadik flourishes like the palm; as a cedar in Lebanon he grows (Tehilim 92:13).

Just as the palm tree doesn’t bend or sway, so too the Jewish people are true to our Emunah in G-d, and follow the teachings of the Torah.

שיר השירים ז:ט

זֹאת קֽוֹמָתֵךְ דָּֽמְתָה לְתָמָר וְשָׁדַיִךְ לְאַשְׁכֹּלֽוֹת:

This, your stature, is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like clusters [of dates] (Shir HaShirim 7:9).

No part of the palm tree is wasted. The dates are for eating; the Lulav branches are for waving in praise on Sukkos; the dried thatch is for roofing; the fibers are for ropes; the leaves are for sieves; and the trunk is for house beams. So too, every one of the Jewish people is needed in Eretz Yisrael. Some are knowledgeable in Chumash, others in Mishnah, others in Aggada (homiletic understanding of the Torah). Still others perform many mitzvos, and others give much charity (Midrash – Bamidbar Raba 3:1).

  • Grapes/Wine – ענבים \ יין Cup #1Pour the 1st cup of wine (all white), Action – Asiah 

Just as a grape vine has large and small clusters, and the large ones hang lower; so too with the Jewish people: Whoever labors in Torah and is greater in Torah knowledge, seems lower than his fellow [due to his humility]. (Midrash, Vayikra Raba 36:2)

תהילים קכח:ג

אֶשְׁתְּךָ כְּגֶפֶן פֹּֽרִיָּה בְּיַרְכְּתֵי בֵיתֶךָ בָּנֶיךָ כִּשְׁתִלֵי זֵיתִים סָבִיב לְשֻׁלְחָנֶֽךָ:

Your wife will be as a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table (Tehilim 128:3).

Wine is to be used for a holy purpose and then good can come out of it. So too, when a husband honors his wife properly, we are blessed with many good children.

Yaakov blessed his son Yehuda with a land blessed with wine like a fountain. This also alludes to Moshiach Ben Dovid from Shevet Yehuda.

בראשית מט: יא-יב

אֹֽסְרִי לַגֶּפֶן עִירוֹ (כתיב עירה) וְלַשּֽׂרֵקָה בְּנִי אֲתֹנוֹ כִּבֵּס בַּיַּיִן לְבֻשׁוֹ וּבְדַם־עֲנָבִים סוּתֽוֹ (כתיב סותה): חַכְלִילִי עֵינַיִם מִיָּיִן וּלְבֶן־שִׁנַּיִם מֵֽחָלָֽב:

He binds his foal to a vine, and to a tendril [he binds] his young donkey. [He launders] his garment with wine, and with the blood of grapes binds his raiment. [He is] red eyed from wine and white toothed from milk. (Bereishis 49: 11-12)

At the Tu B’Shvat seder, it is traditional to drink four cups of wine, similar to the Passover seder.

  • First Cup – pure white
  • Second Cup – pale pink (white with some red wine)
  • Third Cup – darker pink (white with more red wine added)
  • Fourth Cup – almost totally red (with only a drop of white)

White wine represents nature in potential. Red wine represents nature in full bloom. On this day, we begin to leave the winter behind and move into a period of renewal and life.

It is stated in the Zohar: Wine has two colors – white and red. White is from the right side [of kindness]; red from the left side [of strength and judgment].

As we progress from white to red, we move from potential to actuality. We are able to appreciate God’s judgment as well as His kindness. We see G-d’s design and goodness in the world with increasing clarity.

Wine rejoices the heart of man. This refers to the wine of Torah. יין (Hebrew for wine) equals 70, the numerical value of סוד, meaning secret. [Wine represents the hidden aspects of the Torah.] ( Zohar, Parshas Pinchas).

The Talmudic section dealing with agriculture is called trust in G-d. When a farmer plants a seed, he trusts in G-d. This gives him the strength to survive the winter. On Tu B’Shvat we begin to see that trust in G-d rewarded. Similarly, when we plant a seed for personal growth, it requires trust and patience to survive the ‘cold,’ before we see the fruits of our labor.

We will now drink four cups of wine (or grape juice) in conjunction with the four different categories of fruit. Each of these pairs corresponds to each of the four spiritual realms (from lowest to highest):

  1. Action – Asiah עשיה
  2. Formation – Yetzirah יצירה
  3. Creation – Briah בריאה
  4. Emanation of pure Godliness – Atzilus אצילות (level closest to G-d)The Almighty said: Although wine can be a source of trouble in this world, in the future I shall make it only a source of joy, as it says: ‘And it shall come to pass on that day, that the mountains will drip with sweet wine’ (Midrash, Vayikra Rabah 12:5).
  5. Each level becomes more spiritual and connected to the Creator. As we eat, we elevate the fruits, and ourselves, through the various levels, rising higher and higher.

יואל ד:יח

וְהָיָה בַיּוֹם הַהוּא יִטְּפוּ הֶֽהָרִים עָסִיס וְהַגְּבָעוֹת תֵּלַכְנָה חָלָב וְכָל־אֲפִיקֵי יְהוּדָה יֵלְכוּ מָיִם וּמַעְיָן מִבֵּית ה’ יֵצֵא וְהִשְׁקָה אֶת־נַחַל הַשִּׁטִּֽים:

And it shall come to pass on that day that the mountains shall drip with wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the springs of Judah shall flow with water, and a spring shall emanate from the house of the Lord and water the valley of Shittim (Yoel 4:18).

Now Drink Cup #1 of pure white wine, leaning on the left side like at the Seder.

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם, בורא פרי הגפן.

Blessed are you God, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

Slow down and really enjoy the taste of the wine.

PART II

Pour cup of wine #2. 3/4 white, 1/4 red.

This symbolizes that we are in the winter חורף. However, we anticipate the coming of the spring אביב . We pour for each other.

Figs – תאנה

Rabbi Yochanan said: What is the meaning of ‘He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit’? Why is the Torah compared to a fruit tree?

משלי כז: יח

נֹצֵר תְּאֵנָה יֹאכַל פִּרְיָהּ וְשֹׁמֵר אֲדֹניו יְכֻבָּֽד:

He who guards a fig-tree shall eat its fruit, and he who guards his master shall be honored (Mishlei 27:18)

Figs on a tree do not ripen all at once, but a little each day. Therefore, the longer one searches in the tree, the more figs he finds. So too with Torah: The more one studies, the more knowledge and wisdom one finds. (Talmud, Eruvin 54a).

Rami Bar Yechezkel once came to Bnei Brak and saw goats grazing under a fig tree. Honey was dripping from the figs and milk from the goats – and they became intermingled. He said: Behold, a Land flowing with milk and honey! (Talmud, Kesubos 111b). The purpose of this Seder is for us to praise Eretz Yisrael.

Pomegranates – רימון

שיר השירים ז:יג

נַשְׁכִּימָה לַכְּרָמִים נִרְאֶה אִם פָּֽרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן פִּתַּח הַסְּמָדַר הֵנֵצוּ הָֽרִמּוֹנִים שָׁם אֶתֵּן אֶת־דֹּדַי לָֽךְ:

Let us arise early to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine has blossomed, the tiny grapes have developed, the pomegranates have lost their flowers; there I will give you my love (Shir Hashirim 7:13).

“If the pomegranates have lost their flowers”, these are the young children who study Torah and sit in rows in their class like the seeds of a pomegranate. (Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabba 6:11).

We now eat fruits with inedible shells or peels. For example: nuts, oranges, avocado. The edible part of the fruit corresponds to perfection and purity, while the inedible is connected to deficiency and impurity. This is parallel to the realm of action (Asiah), the lowest of the spiritual worlds, a world which is enveloped by materialism, Chutz LaAretz (the Diasporah). Just as the fruit is enveloped in its peel/shell, we need to rid ourselves of our Chutz LaAretz influences and surround ourselves in the holiness of Eretz Yisrael.

Walnut – אגוז

Rabbi Tarfon compared the Jewish people to a pile of walnuts. If one walnut is removed, each and every nut in the pile is shaken and disturbed. So too, when a single Jew is in distress, every other Jew is shaken. (Midrash – Shir HaShirim Raba 6:11).

שיר השירים ו:יא

אֶל־גִּנַּת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי לִרְאוֹת בְּאִבֵּי הַנָּחַל לִרְאוֹת הֲפָֽרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן הֵנֵצוּ הָֽרִמֹּנִֽים:

I went down to the walnut garden to see the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine had blossomed, the pomegranates were in bloom (Shir HaShirim 6:11).

As it is the virtue of a nut to be closed in from all sides, so too the Heavenly Chariot which goes out of the Garden of Eden is hidden on all sides. And just as the four sections of a walnut are united at one side and separated on the other, so are all parts of the Heavenly Chariot united in perfect union, and yet each part fulfills a specific purpose. ( Zohar, Shmos 15b)

As we toss away the peels and shells, we should see one of our bad character traits (anger, impatience, etc.) being tossed away. In our mind’s eye, picture the bad trait as the shell. Then, as we toss it away, feel the trait leaving us. That’s not the real you. The real you is the fruit, delicious and nourishing. See the bad character trait going into the garbage.

PART II

Drink the 2nd cup – Pale pink (white with a drop of red), Yetzirah.

Pour cup #3, half white half red.

We now eat fruits with inedible pits. For example: peaches, plums, cherries. This stage is comparable to the realm of formation (yetzirah). The edible parts of the fruit represent holiness, Eretz Yisrael. The Pits represent impurities which have penetrated the holiness.

As the color of the wine begins to get darker, we can start to see potential turn into reality. The inedible part has now moved from the outside to the inside of the fruit. This is advancement toward purity. In addition, the inedible part is no longer waste; it is a seed with potential to grow. We take the skills we learned in Chutz LaAretz and we use it to rebuild Eretz Yisrael, so we that we should not be guilty that the Beis Hamikdash is not rebuild in our generation. We are doing our part to the best of our abilities to bring the Geulah.

Imagine one of our bad traits as this seed. Then, see that trait growing and developing into something great. This trait no longer holds us back, but propels us forward to Aliyah and Yishuv Ertez Yisrael. Many great people have turned their faults into assets.

PART III

Eating 12 different fruits is significant, since this corresponds to the 12 different arrangements of the four-letter ineffable Name of G-d. We pray for real peace, when G-d’s name is made whole and perfected.

          מיכה ד: ג-ד

וְשָׁפַט בֵּין עַמִּים רַבִּים וְהוֹכִיחַ לְגוֹיִם עֲצֻמִים עַד רָחוֹק וְכִתְּתוּ חַרְבֹֽתֵיהֶם לְאִתִּים וַֽחֲנִיתֹֽתֵיהֶם לְמַזְמֵרוֹת לֹֽא־יִשְׂאוּ גּוֹי אֶל־גּוֹי חֶרֶב וְלֹֽא־יִלְמְדוּן עוֹד מִלְחָמָֽה:  וְיָֽשְׁבוּ אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵֽנָתוֹ וְאֵין מַֽחֲרִיד כִּי־פִי ה’ צְבָקוֹת דִּבֵּֽר:

And he shall judge between many peoples and reprove mighty nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift the sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore. And they shall dwell each man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them move, for the mouth of Hashem of Hosts has spoken (Micha 4:3-4).

Drink the 3rd cup of wine (dark pink), Beriah.

PART IV

Mix cup #4, 3/4 red wine1/4 white wine.

Now we eat fruits that are completely edible: blueberries. This is the realm of creation (Briah), the highest level in the created world. (The three lower worlds – Asiyah, Yetzirah, and Briah – are referred to as ma’aseh bereishis, the act of creation).

Things are coming closer to their full potential. Even the seeds are now edible. They not only have future potential, but they are also delicious and ready to eat right now.

Think about an area of life we would like to improve. Picture our ideal self.

Drink the 4th cup (Red with a drop of white) Atzilus

We now taste the fruit on the table with the best fragrance. This is comparable to the realm of pure Godliness (Atzilus). This level is called the ma’aseh merkava, the act of the Chariot. The prophet Yechezkel saw The Chariot in his vision relating to the mysteries of creation.

In Vayikra, the Esrog is described as pri eitz hadar – fruit of the majestic tree. The Esrog is the most spiritual of all trees, as it’s fruit and bark both have fine taste and smell.

ויקרא כג:מ

וּלְקַחְתּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָֽרִאשׁוֹן פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים וַֽעֲנַף עֵֽץ עָבֹת וְעַרְבֵי נָחַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִֽים:

And you shall take for yourselves on the first day, the fruit of the hadar tree, date palm fronds, a branch of a braided tree, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for a seven day period (Vayikra 23:40).

On Tu B’Shvat, when all trees are judged, we now pray to receive a beautiful Esrog for the upcoming Sukkos holiday.

The sense of smell is the purest and most elevated. It is through the nose that G-d invested Adam with a soul, as it says, “G-d breathed into man’s nostrils a breath of life”. This was the one sense that was not violated by Adam and Chava when they ate the forbidden fruit.

בראשית ב:ז

וַיִּיצֶר ה’ אֱלֹקים אֶת הָֽאָדָם עָפָר מִן הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַיְהִי הָֽאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּֽה:

And Hashem G-d formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul (Bereishis 2:7). .

Since there is no perceptible physical matter to smell, it is the most spiritual and Godly of the five senses. Burning the fragrant incense was designated as the holiest act of the Jewish year, performed by the Kohen Gadol in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. 

CONCLUSION – The Fifteenth (Tu) Day of Shvat

Eating 15 Tu (ט”ו ) different fruits is also significant, since this is the numerical value of י-ה the Name of G-d which connects the physical to the spiritual, between this world and the next world. In the Holy Temple, the Leviim would sing each one of the 15 Shir HaMa’alot Tehilim as they ascended each of the 15 steps. The fifteen steps in the Beis Hamikdash symbolize the Aliya of Jewish Nation to Israel and to G-d Himself.

After Blessings

After enjoying all the wonderful pleasures that G-d has given us, we complete the process with a meaningful, heartfelt thanks to the Creator for the Land of Israel. We thank G-d for the Land of Israel in mein shalosh (… ועל ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה שרצתה…לאכל מפריה בקדושה) and in the Birkas HaMazon (נודה לך…ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה…על הארץ הטובה אשר נתן לך).

Only the Jews Living in Israel are Actually Bringing in the Geula

Rabbi Abba taught: There is no more revealed redemption, no greater indication of the impending redemption, than that which the verse states: (Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 98a).

יחזקאל לו:ח

וְאַתֶּם הָרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַנְפְּכֶם תִּתֵּנוּ וּפֶרְיְכֶם תִּשְׂאוּ לְעַמִּי יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי קֵֽרְבוּ לָבֽוֹא:

And you, the mountains of Israel, will produce your branches, and you will bear your fruit for My people Yisrael because they are about to come (Yechezkel 36:8).

Rashi explains: When the Land of Israel will give fruit bountifully, this is an indication of the impending redemption, and there is no greater indication than this.

Tu B’Shvat reminds us to appreciate and eat the fruits of Eretz Yisrael; recognize that all Jews must live here. It is only here that we can reach our potential and lifelong goal to be as close to G-d as possible, this is called Dvekus. The Torah comes from Zion, the mitzvos are to be performed here. The spiritual power from the mannah of the desert is still permeating the fruits of the Land of Israel (Chesed LeAvraham). The fruits of Eretz Yisrael are on the same level and serve the same purpose as mannah from Heaven. The current abundance of fruits in Israel shows us that Moshiach ben Yosef’s arrival is imminent (Israel exports fruits to other countries including the USA!).

…The fruits of Eretz Yisrael, however, come from holiness; and the spirituality that was fitting for the manna attached itself to these holy fruits. This is why manna existed in the desert and not in Eretz Yisrael. (Chesed LeAvraham, Nahar 21).

Just as we plant seeds and do nothing other than add water and subsequently a fruit tree grows; so too we are not in charge of our parnassa (income/wealth). Our material wealth all comes from G-d. In Chutz LaAretz, there is an illusion of Jews having wealth and security, .כחי ועוצם ידי עשה את החיל הזה However, here in Eretz Yisrael, by eating its fruits we see and know that everything is dependent on G-d. In Chutz LaAretz G-d sends us “Anti-Semitism” as a blessing to remind us to go home and that we do not belong there. Don’t fight anti-Semitism! Rather, be a Jew in Israel, not Jew-ish (“like” a Jew) in Chutz LaAretz.

It’s a privilege and a blessing to serve G-d and eat the fruits of Eretz Yisrael during this Seder. We learn from Moshe Rabeinu himself, how each and every Jew must strive to live here. We are not only Jews from Judea or more accurate we are Yisraeli from the land of Yisrael, the children of Yaakov.

Here in Eretz Yisrael we recognize the merit זכות that we receive our sustenance directly from G-d Himself and not via intermediary Angelic ministers (impure forces סט”א). The reality of living in Eretz Yisrael and eating its fruits פירות, enables us to get closer to G-d.

In another thirty days is the holiday of Purim (when there is no leap year). It is now the time to learn the halachos of Purim. Where is Haman is alluded to in the Torah? The words “from the Tree” can be read as “Haman, the tree”.

בראשית ג:יא

וַיֹּאמֶר מִי הִגּיד לְך כִּי עֵירֹם אָתָּה הֲמִן הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לְבִלְתִּי אֲכָל־מִמֶּנּוּ אָכָֽלְתָּ:

And He said, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Bereishis 3:11)

Amalek began with the impurity of the evil snake who encouraged Chava to eat from the Eitz HaDaas. This evil continued in Kayin and through the ages from Esav to Amalek. Tonight is the Tikun of the sin from The Tree. On the fifteen day of the month of Adar we will remember to eradicate Amalek and Haman of The Tree. In every generation Amalek (Iran today?) fights us, which is represented by the incomplete phrase כס י-ה (Chair of G-d). Here the letters aleph, vav and heh are missing. (Today on Tu B’Shvat, in the news Iran stated “We are prepared to eliminate Israel)

שמות יז:טז

וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָ-הּ מִלְחָמָה לַֽה’ בַּֽעֲמָלֵק מִדֹר דֹּֽר:

And he [Moshe] said, For there is a hand on the thron of Gd, [that there shall be] a war for the Hashem against Amalek from generation to generation (Shemos17:16).

We can only make “The Tree” complete in Eretz Yisrael using the power of the letters “אוה” אוה למושב לו. This is because G-d dwells here.

          תהילים קלב:יג

כִּֽי־בָחַר יְ-הֹ-וָ-ה בְּצִיּוֹן אִוָּהּ לְמוֹשָׁב לֽוֹ:

For the Hashem has chosen Zion [Eretz Yisrael]; He desired it for His habitation (Tehilim 132:13).

In this manner we can eradicate Amalek and fix the “first sin” by making G-d’s home complete כסא י-ה-ו-ה here in Eretz Yisrael.

לשנה הבא בירושלים הבנויה!

About the Author
Arie Pelta MD is a board certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA who made aliyah with his wife and 7 children. He is also a active Medical Corp Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and Assuta Medical center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group. Speciaizing in surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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