TU B’SHEVAT – and a Tu B’Shevat Seder / festive meal

 Tu B’Shevat  – The 15th of Shevat

Thanking God for the Fruit of the Trees and for Redemption

Tu B’Shevat is not listed among the Biblical Feast Days but is in accord with the Scripture,     “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed, which comes from the field year by year” (Deuteronomy 14:22). As this is the time the sap rises in trees to nourish new life and cause the buds of new fruit to develop, this day was allocated as the New Year for trees, that is, it serves to determine which fruit needs to be tithed for any particular year.

Note: For more detail and background please see Appointments with God / All the Rest / Hebrew Months / 11th Month – SHEVAT

The three central themes of Tu B’Shevat are:
(a) giving thanks and praise to God for His creation of the trees and fruit, with a special focus on those grown in Israel.
(b) recalling our beginning in the Garden of Eden, with the Tree of Life in the center, and the relationship we enjoyed there with our Father, and
(c) creating greater awareness of our task of restoring the ‘Garden’ and of how we can actively participate in God’s unfolding plan of Redemption by caring for our environment, both physically and spiritually.

These themes can be explored and expressed in a Tu B’Shevat seder/meal.
There is no fixed order or content for a Tu B’Shevat seder. Below you will find an outline of one suitable for believers in Messiah Yeshua, but there is much flexibility and opportunity for you to add your own creative ideas! There are many possibilities for children to add their contributions.

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 An example of a simple Tu B’Shevat Seder with bowls (still to be filled!)
of fruit, nuts and salads,  bread and wine.

 Ensure that each participant has the opportunity to read a section, say a blessing, or contribute a song or poem, a piece of decorative artwork, etc. There are many poems, stories, songs and analogies connected with trees and fruit, as well as inspiring and relevant Scripture verses. It is an adventure to find and collect a meaningful selection that can be shared during the seder.

Note: Hear the short children’s story ‘Behold the Trees’ recorded by Keren – In Audio Books section. [Link below]

One example, in accord with the metaphor of an “upside-down Kingdom”:
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (18th century Jewish writer and scholar), in his work, “The Way of God”, describes the Tree of Life as an upside-down tree, with its roots in the higher spiritual realms. The Tree draws nourishment and life from the heavens and passes it to the branches, leaves and fruit on earth. The wisdom of God expressed in the Torah – the teaching and revelation of God through His Word – is associated with the Tree of Life.    We read in Proverbs 3:18, “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy”. Also, “The fruit of the righteous [who live according to God’s Word] is a tree of life, but lawlessness [‘Torah’lessness] takes away lives” (Proverbs 11:30).
In this regard, we can compare Yeshua’s description of himself: “I am the Vine…” (John 15:5). He came down from the heavenly realm and remained firmly rooted in the Father, the Source, the Life Giver. And “… you are the branches.” When we allow his life to flow through us, we will bear much fruit for the Father’s Kingdom here on earth.

Plant and Sing

I Will Sing unto the Lord!    The importance of song in the praise of God is emphasized at Tu B’Shevat.   Shabbat Shirah (Sabbath of Song) occurs around the time of Tu B’Shevat. The Torah portion BeShallach is read, which contains the mighty Shirat haYam, the Song at the Sea (Exodus 15:1-18). This Shabbat falls in the middle of winter and it is customary to put out extra breadcrumbs or birdseed to feed the birds on this day. The eye of the Great King is also on the sparrow, and we can be His open hand in feeding them at a time when finding food is difficult. The song of the birds is lifted to the heavens in constant praise to their Creator, and they remind us to do the same.

Plant Something!    You can plant a tree in Israel via JNF the  Jewish National Fund. And/or, tend to the trees in your yard and maybe plant something new. Otherwise, plant something indoors.  This is an interesting project for children as it instills an awareness of the natural growth cycle. Different seeds can be planted, for example parsley, which can then be ‘harvested’ for use at the Passover Seder.

 

CELEBRATE A TU B’SHEVAT SEDER

The celebration of a Tu B’Shevat seder meal can be as large and ornate or as small and simple as you wish. The ideal ingredients are as follows:

  • A collection of fruit and nuts, fresh and/or dried of the seven species, i.e. figs, dates, olives, grapes, pomegranates.
  • Wheat and barley can be added in the form of bread (Shabbat challah can be used), cake, cookies or cereal.
  • Various nuts, some with the shells (pistachios are easiest).
  • Fruit with peels (e.g. bananas, oranges, avocadoes); fruit with edible seeds (e.g. blueberries, strawberries, grapes), fruit with inedible pits (e.g. apricots, peaches, plums, dates)
  • Wine or grape juice, white and red if possible.
  • A “pushka” – a box, or container, to collect a donation for planting trees or for a designated charity.

A Suggested Order for the Seder Celebration

1. Giving

Before we begin, let us pause to consider the many who are poor and needy, who suffer hunger and do not enjoy the good things we do. Much poverty of body and spirit is a result of war and man’s inhumanity to man. We see the effects among people and on land itself, which becomes dry and desert-like, without trees and fruit and flowers. As we pass around the ‘box’ for a donation towards helping where we can, let us read a promise of the Lord for the End of days:

…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Adonai Tze’vaot, the Lord of hosts, has spoken. (Micha 4:3-4)

A pushka, collection box, and a JNF tree certificate

 

Prayer for Israel:  We offer praise and thanks, Father, for the miracle of restoration the You have brought about in the land of Israel even in our days. We rejoice that the “desert is blooming as a rose” and that we have seen fulfillment of Ezekiel 36:8, “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.” We pray for the safety and the peace of Jerusalem, and of all Israel. Amen.

 

2. Blessing for Bread

We no longer can bring the first fruits of our labor to the Temple in Jerusalem as a praise and thanks offering , instead we offer the fruit of our lips to our Father in Heaven for His provision of trees and fruit. He is the provider of all good things and we offer Him our grateful thanks and joyful praise.

[Say blessing over bread or challah]

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haOlam,
ha motzi lechem min ha’aretz.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the Universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth.

[If eating cake, crackers or cookies etc.say]

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haOlam,
Borei minei mezonot.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the Universe,
Who creates species of nourishment.

3. Blessing for Fruit of the Vine

During the Tu B’Shevat seder it is customary to drink four cups of wine, or grape juice, similar to the Passover seder. A tradition has arisen that reflects the blooming of trees and flora in Israel that takes place during the two Month period between the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, on the fifteenth of Shevat (Jan/Feb), and the Festival of Passover on the fifteenth of Nissan (March/April).

The first cup one drinks is white wine or grape juice, reflecting the pure white array of almond blossoms that first cover the landscape at the end of winter. The second cup is pale pink (white with drops of red added), reflecting the white and red anemones and the white, broom bushes that adorn the land during the months of Shevat and Adar.

The third is darker pink, illustrating the growing number of red and darker hued tulips and flora that begin to balance the decreasing amount of white.

The fourth is all red, reflecting the carpets of bright red poppies glistening on hill and field by Passover, in the month of Nissan. They resemble countless droplets of blood freely scattered throughout the Land; indeed reminiscent of the Blood of the Lamb shed at just this season.

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The white represents inherent potential and the red, the potential fulfilled – the promise in full bloom. We can also recall the first miracle performed by Yeshua, at the wedding in Cana, when he took clear water and turned it into red wine. He illustrated that all the potential and promise of the Word finds its fulfillment in Him, the Living Word – the Water of Life. Water can therefore also be used for the first cup, and water with wine/grape juice added for the subsequent cups until the fourth cup which can be all wine. We rejoice that “as wine makes glad the hearts of men” so the Word of God brings hope and joy to the spirit!

First Cup  (Blessing)

[Proclaim the blessing over the first cup that includes wine/grape juice]

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haOlam,
Borei pri hagaffen.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the Universe,
Who creates the fruit of the vine.

And Blessing for Fruit

Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit forbidden to them, causing man’s exile from the Garden. May our lives bear the fruit of righteousness in love, for the sake of His Name.

We first eat fruit with inedible shells or peels – for example, nuts, pomegranates, bananas, oranges, avocados.

[All select one or two. Before eating the first fruit proclaim the blessing]

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haOlam,
Borei pri ha’etz.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the Universe,
Who creates the fruit of the tree.

Consider that the edible part can be compared to purity and perfection, and the inedible part with impurity and deficiency. They correspond with the realm of assiyah (action) the earthly level of existence – the physical, material world. The pressures of materialism can restrict and enslave us, and we need to remove the ‘shells’ to allow the goodness within to be released and given expression. On the other hand, exposure to the ways of the world can defile us and we need a “shell” to protect our inner, spiritual holiness. Wisdom lies in knowing when to discard the confining shells and when to retain a shell of protection.

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As we eat this fruit, we express our trust in God that He will enable us to withstand the negative effects of undue materialism and that our inner holiness will mature and grow and come forth in fruitful profusion like the seeds of the pomegranate!

Second Cup and Fruit  (Growing in Holiness)

We lift this second cup, white with drops of red, in thanks and praise for the potential that our Creator has planted in each of our lives, and that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it! (Phil. 1:6)

 

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Now we eat the second type of fruit, those with inedible pits, e.g. dates, olives, peaches, cherries. These are connected with the realm of yetzira, formation. The edible fruit represents holiness and the pits impurities that have penetrated the holiness and are buried in our souls. As we grow in holiness and move forward from potential to realization, the inedible pit is not wasted. Once we bring it into the light of truth, it is a seed with the potential to grow new life. Ask Abba to reveal a sinful trait in your life, a pit buried in your heart, such as anger, impatience, greed, pride. Really “see” it and ask that it will no longer hold you back but that, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, it will become an asset in your life.

Third Cup and Fruit  (Fullness of Potential)

Now we drink the third cup (half white, half red).

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The third type of fruits is comprised of those that are completely edible, such as grapes, figs, blueberries. These are compared to the realm of beriyah, creation, the highest level in the created world. Things are coming to their full potential – you can even eat the seeds! Truly see yourself as a new creation in Messiah; as the beautiful, unique person that God created you to be, fulfilling all the potential He has placed within you for His glory in the earth. Praise His holy and wonderful Name!
We can rejoice that He makes all things beautiful in His time! (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Fourth Cup and Fruit  (Beauty and Fragrance)

Finally, we drink the fourth cup (all red). We thank our Father that He has placed eternity in our hearts, and that He has made the way for all to come into the fullness of knowledge of Him and to experience the joy of His Presence through our Savior-Messiah Yeshua. The shedding of His blood and resurrection to glory has brought life where there was death, healing where there was brokenness, and hope where there was despair.
HalleluYah! Le’chayim – to Life Eternal!

There is no fruit that can fully correspond with the pure heavenly realm of atzilut, God’s perfect holiness. Thus, it is customary to partake of the fruit with the best fragrance! Fragrance is intangible and yet powerfully intimates a presence. The Song of Songs is replete with beautiful imagery of fragrance and fruit, for example:

Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden; let its fragrance be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits (4:16).

The fruit generally used here is the etrog, citron, the fruit of the Four Species used in the lulav at Sukkot. Its shape is that of a pure, golden heart and it has the sweetest of fragrances. It is referred to as pri etz hadar, “fruit of the majestic tree” (Leviticus 23:40).

[If an etrog is not available a lemon or orange, which are of the same family and also have sweet fragrances, can be substituted.]

As we partake of this fruit by enjoying its fragrance, we express our trust in God that He will purify our hearts and enable us to carry the fragrance of His Presence in our lives and to spread it wherever He takes us. Amen!

But thanks be to God, who in Messiah always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

May we be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May we be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

~Keren Hannah Pryor

Footnotes:

1. Nogah Hareuveni, Nature in our Biblical Heritage, Neot Kedumim, Israel, 1981; 115

Blue Man

If you enjoyed this post, take a look at these:

Behold The Trees – read by Keren
11th Hebrew month – SHEVAT and the blessings of Trees