Tu B’Shvat Seder (updated)

INTRODUCTION

Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the Trees ראש השנה לאילנות. As in all other holidays in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into living 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 in the lower realms.

In the 16th century, the Kabbalists of Tzfat compiled a Tu B’Shvat seder, somewhat similar to the Seder for Pesach. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, especially those that are native to the Land of Israel שבעת המינים. In addition, it discusses the philosophical and Kabbalistic 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, and to develop a good and generous eye for the world around us.

(Based on the Kabbalistic work, Chemdas Yamim, later published separately under the title Pri Eitz Hadar).

PREPARATIONS

Fruit:

 

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

Figs תאנה

Dates תמר

Pomegranates רמון

Olives זית

Grapes גפן (or raisins)

Wheat and Barley חיטה, שעורה (in the form of bread, cake)

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

סדר ט”ו בשבט

The Leader Begins:

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

All say:

Since the בית המקדש was destroyed, the Jewish people could no longer bring the First Fruits ביכורים to Yerushalayim. On Tu B’Shvat we offer instead the fruit of our lips, to praise G-d for all the fruit trees in the world.

A participant says:

Tu B’Shvat marks a 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 charity to the poor and feeding them, just as G-d in His bounty feeds him ( Zohar – Parshat Trumah).

At this point it is appropriate to pass around a ‘pushka’ to collect tzedakah.

A participant says:

The Mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashana (1:1) says 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.

This reference to a singular tree alludes to The Tree – the Tree of Knowledge עץ הדעת in Gan Eden.

            בראשית א:יא

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

And Hashem said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit of its kind (Bereishis 1:11).

Fruit tree means the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil עץ הדת טוב ורע, which put forth blossoms and fruit. “Bearing fruit” is the Tzadik, the basis of the world. ‘Of its kind’ means all the human beings who have in them the spirit of holiness קדושה , which is the blossom of that tree. This is the covenant of holiness, the covenant of peace – and the faithful enter into that kind of covenant and do not depart from it. The Tzadik generates, and the tree conceives and brings forth fruit of its kind ( Zohar – Bereishit 33a).

Meditation:

One should intend that he is eating at the celestial table before G-d, in the Garden of Eden before the Divine Presence רוח הקודש ( Reishis Chochma – Shar HaKedusha).

Take a few moments and think deeply about being in the company of G-d… sitting at His table… experiencing the sublime spiritual pleasure of a relationship with the Creator Himself.

Discussion questions:

When Adam and Eve were in Gan Eden, they were permitted to eat only fruits and vegetables. Only after Noach’s Flood did G-d permit meat. In what ways is it considered spiritually higher to eat meat?

Man has a soul נשמה and has the power of speech to perform prayer תפילה ; he is thus a higher spiritual being compared to an animal. Our dominion over animals highlights our superiority, and reminds us that we are charged with divine responsibility to perfect the world.

In what ways was it considered spiritually higher to be a vegetarian before the מבול?

Killing an animal may seem inherently cruel and may ingrain this negative trait into the human character. However, at the time of the Generation of the Flood דור המבול , man and the animals became corrupted. They did not see the difference between killing a man or an animal. This attitude and behavior prompted G‑d to cleanse the world with the great flood.

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). 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. Why would Adam and Eve have chosen to eat from the latter, especially since G-d had explicitly instructed them not to? He was tricked, by drinking wine. This was instigated by the evil Snake נחש who enticed Chava to take the grapes from the tree.

A participant says:

Man’s very name – Adam אדם – is derived from the word Earth, אדמה. While man is at 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 (Devarim 20:19).

 

            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:

 

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 and his Land.

It was through a mistake in eating fruit that caused Adam and Chava’s exile גלות from the Garden of 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.

All Have the Following Intention in Mind for This Seder:

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 .

A participant says:

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 as a means to a worthy end – i.e. appreciating the greatness of G-d who created all.

A participant says:

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 ( Chemdat Yamim ).

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

Because every aspect of God’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).

A participant says:

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 him 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!”

The leader says:

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

Now comes the part we’ve been waiting for: drinking wine and enjoying other delicacies!

Wheat and barley are the first two of the seven species connected to the greatness of the Land of Israel, as it says: “A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives and honey” (Devarim 8:8).

דברים ח:ח

אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן אֶֽרֶץ זֵית שֶׁמֶן וּדְבָֽשׁ:

 

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.

 

The leader says:

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

משנה, מסכת אבותפרק ד, משנה א

 

בֶּן זוֹמָא אוֹמֵר… אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר – הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר “יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ” (תהלים קכח:ב) . אַשְׁרֶיךָ – בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וטוֹב לָךְ – לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא.

 

If eating cake or cereal, recite the following ברכה:

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 bracha of raising of the hands; water is poured two or three times on the right and then the left hand, and then say:

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 G-d. As the verse says: “He would feed him with the finest wheat” (Tehillim 81:17).

 

תהילים פא:יז

          וַיַּֽאֲכִילֵהוּ מֵחֵלֶב חִטָּה; וּמִצּוּר דְּבַשׁ אַשְׂבִּיעֶֽךָּ:

 

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

A Participant Says:

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

במדבר טו:יט

 

וְהָיָה בַּֽאֲכָלְכֶם מִלֶּחֶם הָאָרֶץ; תָּרִימוּ תְרוּמָה לַָֽֽה’:

 

This refers to the waving (תנופה) of the Omer. Tenufah can be read as 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 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 is the plant with which Adam HaRishon sinned (Zohar – Balak 189a).

Meditation:

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

שולחן ערוך אורך חיים ר”ל

כל מה דעביד רחמנט – לטב עביד.

FRUIT פרי העץ

On Tu B’Shvat, we eat the fruit by which G-d 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 Hashem, your G-d…” (Yoel 2:22-23).

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:

The order of eating is based on the priority of the fruits of Eretz Yisrael in the pasuk and should be: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates.

Say the following blessing and then eat one of the fruits:

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

Blessed are you Hashem, 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 והגינו לזמן הזה.

Blessed are You Hashem, 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; especially in the Land of Israel.

Participants take turns saying the following paragraphs:

Olives זית:

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 the Hashem called your name; to the sound of a great tumult, He has kindled fire upon it, and they have broken its branches (Yermiyahu 11:16).

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. (Tehillim 128:3)

Rabbi Yehoshuah Ben Levi said: Why is Israel 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 – Menachot 53b)

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

Dates תמר:

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree” (Tehillim 92:13). The righteous are fruitful and sweet, just like a date palm.

תהילים צב:יג

צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח; כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּֽה:

“Your stature is like a palm tree” (Shir Hashirim 7:8). Just as the palm tree doesn’t bend or sway, so too the genuine Jewish people stay committed to G-d and his Torah.

שיר השירים ז:ח

זֹאת קֽוֹמָתֵךְ דָּֽמְתָה לְתָמָר; וְשָׁדַיִךְ לְאַשְׁכֹּלֽוֹת:

No part of the palm tree is wasted. The dates are for eating; the Lulav branches are for raising and waving in praise of G-d 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. Some are knowledgeable in Chumash, others in Mishnah, others in Aggada (homiletic understanding of the Torah). Still others perform many mitzvot, and others give much charity (Midrash – Bamidbar Raba 3:1).

Grapes גפן:

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

Figs תאנה:

Rabbi Yochanan said: What is the meaning of “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit” (Mishlei 27:18)?

משלי כז:יח

          נֹצֵר תְּאֵנָה יֹאכַל פִּרְיָהּ; וְשֹׁמֵר אֲדֹנָיו יְכֻבָּֽד:

This is the reason why is the Torah compared to a fruit tree. 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).

Pomegranates רימון:

Your temple is like a split pomegranate from beneath your kerchief… I went down to the nut garden to see the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine had blossomed, the pomegranates were in bloom.

שיר השירים ו:ז, יא

כְּפֶלַח הָֽרִמּוֹן רַקָּתֵךְ מִבַּעַד לְצַמָּתֵֽךְ…אֶל גִּנַּת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי לִרְאוֹת בְּאִבֵּי הַנָּחַל; לִרְאוֹת הֲפָֽרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן הֵנֵצוּ הָֽרִמֹּנִֽים:

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

Story:

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 – Ketubot 111b)

We are privileged to experience the Land of Israel every day. We must remember to only focus and only see the good of Eretz Yisrael; this is the way G-d blesses us.

תהילים קכח:ה

יְבָֽרֶכְךָ ה’ מִצִּיּוֹן וּרְאֵה בְּטוּב יְרֽוּשָׁלִָם; כּל יְמֵי חַיֶּֽיךָ:

Wine יין – The Four Cups

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

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

A participant says:

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 חסד]; red from the left side [of strength גבורה and judgment דין].

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

A participant says:

Wine rejoices the heart of man. This refers to the wine of Torah. יין has the gematria of 70, which is the numerical value of סוד, meaning secret. [Wine represents the hidden aspects of the Torah.] ( Zohar – Parshat Pinchas). We tap into this secret tonight and then again on Purim. Wine goes in and the secret comes out נכנס יין יוצא סוד (Talmud Sanhedrin 38a).

A participant says:

The Talmudic section dealing with agriculture is called trust in G-d. When a farmer plants a seed, trust in G-d gives him the strength to survive the winter. On Tu B’Shvat he begins to see that trust 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. This is true for every Jew who goes through the Aliyah experience.

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

  1. Action – עשיה
  2. Formation – יצירה
  3. Creation – בריאה
  4. Emanation of pure Godliness – אצילות

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.

A participant says:

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” (Yoel 4:18) (Midrash – Vayikra Raba 12:5).

            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:

 

Pour the 1st cup of wine (all white):

All say the following blessing, and then drink from the wine עשיה)) (if you haven’t already done so during Kiddush):

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

Blessed are you Hashem, King of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine.

Slow down and really enjoy the taste of the wine. Some people train to be experts in wine tasting. There’s a lot to appreciate in life. Be a connoisseur!

The leader says:

We now eat fruits with inedible shells or peels. For example: nuts, pomegranates, 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 (עשיה), the lowest of the spiritual worlds – a world which is enveloped by materialism, just as the fruit is enveloped in its peel/shell. This can also represent the stage when we grew up in Chutz LaAretz.

A participant says:

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)

כל ישראל עֲרֵבִים זה בזה

A participant says:

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)

Meditation:

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

Wine – Cups 2, 3, 4

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

The leader says:

We now eat fruits with inedible pits. For example: dates, olives, peaches, plums, cherries. This stage is comparable to the realm of formation (יצירה).

The edible parts of the fruit represent holiness. Pits represent impurities which have penetrated the holiness.

As the color of the wine begins to gets 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 an advancement toward purity. In addition, the inedible part is no longer waste; it is a seed with potential to grow.

Meditation:

Imagine one of your bad traits as this seed. Really see it. Then, see that trait growing and developing into something great. This trait no longer holds you back, but propels you forward. Many great people have turned their faults into assets. You too can become great.

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

The leader says:

Now we eat fruits that are completely edible: like blueberries. This is the realm of creation (בריאה), the highest level in the created world. (The three lower worlds – asiyah, yetzirah, and briah – are referred to as מעשה בראשית, the act of creation).

 

 

Meditation:

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

Think about an area of life you would like to improve. Picture your ideal self. Realize that’s the real you. Now, for the rest of Tu B’Shvat, actually be that person. Act as if you’re already there. Appreciate the fact that we have made Aliyah and are actually fulfilling the mitzvah of . ישוב ארץ ישראלThe experience can be transformational.

Drink the 4th cup (red with a drop of white).

The leader says:

We now taste the fruit on the table with the best fragrance. This is comparable to the realm of pure Godliness (אצילות). This level is called the מעשה מרכבה the act of the Chariot. The prophet Yechezkiel saw a Chariot in his vision relating to the mysteries of creation.

A Participant Says:

In Vayikra (23:40), the Esrog is described as פרי עץ הדר – fruit of the majestic tree. The Esrog is the most spiritual of all trees as it’s fruit and bark both have a fine taste and smell.

ויקרא כג:מ

וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָֽרִאשׁוֹן פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִם וַֽעֲנַף עֵֽץ עָבֹת וְעַרְבֵי נָחַל; וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹֽקֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִֽים:

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

A Participant Says:

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 (Bereishis 2:7).

בראשית ב:ז

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

Since there is no perceptible physical matter to smell, it is the most spiritual and G-dly of the five senses. Burning the fragrant incense קטורת 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 Leader Says:

Eating 12 different fruits is significant, since this corresponds to the 12 different arrangements of the four-letter ineffable Name of G-d. Upon eating the 12th fruit, we recite the verse:

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 they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit each person under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of Hashem has spoken (Micah 4:3-4)

Eating 15 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 בית המקדש, the Leviim would sing each of the 15 Shir HaMa’alot Tehillim as they ascended each of the 15 steps. It is specifically this aspect of G-d that Amalek corrupts in this world.

שמות יז:טז, פרשת בשלח

וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָ-הּ מִלְחָמָה ה’ בַּֽעֲמָלֵק; מִדֹּר דֹּֽר:

And he said, For there is a hand on the throne of the Eternal, [that there shall be] a war for Hashem against Amalek from generation to generation.

Chose to serve G-d by eating His fruits in His chosen Land of Eretz Yisrael. In this manner we complete G-d’s four letter name from י-ה to י-ה-ו-ה and completing His Throne from כס to כסא; by adding the letters אוה . This can ONLY be done in Israel.

תהילים קלב:יג

כִּֽי בָחַר ה’ בְּצִיּוֹן; אִוָּהּ לְמוֹשָׁב לֽוֹ:

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

After Blessing:

After enjoying all the wonderful pleasures that G-d has given us, we complete the process with a meaningful, heartfelt thanks to the Creator.

Those who ate bread say the full Birkas HaMazon where we thank G-d for Eretz Yisrael, נודה לך ה’ אלקינו על שהנחלת לאבותינו ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה. Otherwise, we say the three-faceted blessing מעין שלש– including the relevant lines for cake, wine, and/or fruit, plus the special insertion for Shabbis if applicable. So too in this blessing we thank G-d for Israel and thus making us holy, על ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה שרצית והנחלת לאבותינו לאכול מפריה…בקדשה ובטהרה .

A Participant Says:

Rabbi Abba taught: There is no more revealed redemption – no greater indication of the impending redemption – than that which the verse (Yechezkiel 36:8) states: “And you, mountains of Israel, you shall give forth your branches and you shall bear your fruit for my people Israel, for they shall soon come” (Talmud – Sanhedrin 98a).

יחזקאל לו:ח

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

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.

 

We come to the end of the Tu B’Shvat seder. We have only touched the surface of the true meaning of the holiday and of the significance of trees and fruit in G-d’s creation. That is the beauty of the Jewish calendar. Each year we celebrate the same holidays, yet each year we grow and develop many new insights.

Tu B’Shvat reminds us to see and eat the fruits of Eretz Yisrael and to realize 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 דביקות. The Torah comes from Zion ציון. The mitzvos of the Torah are to be performed here. The manna that the Jews ate in the Midbar, after leaving Mitzrayim, now exist inside 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 manna from heaven. The abundance of fruits here in Israel demonstrates that Moshiach ben Yosef’s arrival is imminent.

…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 a fruit tree grows; so too we are not in charge of our parnassa. Everything that we have is a gift from Hashem. In Chutz LaAretz there is an illusion of .כחי ועוצם ידי עשה את החיל הזה However, here in Eretz Yisrael, eating its Holy Fruits, we see and know that everything, even our parnassah, is not dependent on our efforts but only on G-d. It’s a privilege and a blessing to serve G-d and eat of the fruits of Eretz Yisrael. We learn from Moshe Rabeinu himself begging to make Aliyah, how each and every Jew must strive to live here. We are not just “Jews” but Jews from Judea or more accurately “Yisraeli” the children of Yaakov from The Land of Yisrael.

Here in Eretz Yisrael we recognize the honor זכות , that we get our sustenance directly from G-d and not via angelic ministers (impure forces), as others do in Chutz LaAretz. The reality of living in Eretz Yisrael and eating its fruits פירות, enables us to get closer to G-d.

In another thirty days will be observing the holiday of Purim. Now is the time to start learning the laws הלכות of Purim. Where is Haman hinted to in the Torah? From a fruit tree!

בראשית ג:יא

וַיֹּאמֶר מִי הִגִּיד לְךָ 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)

Adam HaRishon did not just eat from any tree, he ate fruit from THE Tree. This is the tree of knowledge עץ הדעת or the Holy Sefiros. Chava was tricked by the snake to eat from the grapes of the fruit of the tree. She knew that Adam would not eat these forbidden fruit so she squeezed out the juice and fermented it into wine, from which Adam drank.

The snake was the beginning of the evil Amalek. Chava became pregnant from the snake נחש   and subsequently gave birth to evil Kayin who murdered his brother Hevel. This impure spirit of the snake then continued onto Amalek and exists until this very day. Tonight is the Tikun תיקון to fix this fatal mistake of Adam and Chava with “The Tree”. We take the same fruit and sanctify it with our four cups of wine by making a blessing ברכה    over it. In another month, we will remember to eradicate Amalek and Haman of The Tree with more wine and ברכות on Purim.

לשנה הבא בירושלים הבנויה !

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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