Excerpted from Tu b’Shevat Companion: A Handbook for the New Year of the Tree, Livnot U’Lehibanot
ORIGINS OF THE TU B’SHEVAT Lit. Order. The festive meal conducted on Passover night, in a specific order with specific rituals to symbolize aspects of the Exodus from Egypt. It is conducted following the haggadah, a book for this purpose. The mystics of Sefat also created a seder for Tu B'shvat, the new year of the trees.
Like a real tree, this holiday had to go through a process. Until five hundred years ago, Tu B’shevat was only recognized, honored and mentioned as one of the days we are not supposed to mourn. Over time, more and more teachers started revealing the spiritual sides of Judaism. This same group of people in Tzfat started celebrating Tu B’shevat as a real holiday by eating from the fruits of the Land of Lit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel. and sharing the wisdom garnered from them.
Tu B’shevat was developed as a product of our own spiritual growth and maturity, by internalizing the ideas of the The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. and taking them one step further. It could not have been commanded, it could only have been awakened from within.
Our Tu B’shevat seder (a similar concept as the Passover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc). seder that creates an order around the celebration) links us with the Land of Israel. Our ancestors treasured its stones and soil; how much more so its trees and fruit. Passover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc). marks the Journey; Tu B’shevat celebrates the Arrival. Passover is about yearning for the Land; Tu b’Shevat is the appreciation of the Land.
THE SEVEN SPECIES: VALUES
Wheat products represent our human ability to change and improve.
Olive oil, mostly used for light in the past, symbolizes our striving to connect to our soul, and also the desire to shine its light and ideas out in an understandable and accessible way.
The palm tree (and dates) teaches an important Jewish value–inclusiveness. One who achieves a certain level of completeness and enlightenment is expected to become an inspiration and share their drive towards improvement with others.
Jewish sources often refer to the People of Isael as a grapevine–full of beauty, fruitfullness, and diversity. All parts of the grapevine are vital to its entire existence.
The pomegranate is a symbol for wisdom and the creative ability to see the hidden, as it is the only one of the seven species with an inedible rind.
Just as each fig ripens in its own time, so too does understanding develop over time. Understanding is compared to our ability to hear. It is impossible to hear all the melody at once.
The Tu B’shevat Companion, created by Livnot U’Lehibanot (To Build & Be Built) is a practical guide for celebrating Tu B’shevat. The companion is a blend of Jewish texts, sparks of wisdom, spiritual insights, thought-provoking questions and different perspective on the Jewish way of experiencing and celebrating life and creation. To download a complete Tu B’shevat Companion, please visit the Livnot U’Lehibanot website.
Read Livnot’s own Henna Warman reflect on her experiences in a Tu B’shevat Seder on the Ritualwell blog!