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Tu Bishvat,  5782: Welcome to the First Tu Bishvat Sofa Seder!

01/11/2022 09:09:48 PM


Rabbi Rudin

It’s the… Adath Shalom Tu Bishvat Sofa Seder!  

The history of Tu Bishvat: From legalistic debate to fruit-eating bonanza -  Jewish World -

Adath Shalom’s Virtual Tu Bishvat Seder!  We hope you enjoy sharing this classic moment of Jewish connection and spiritual awakening.

The Seder itself starts on page three.  Here is some of the fascinating background to the practice of a Tu Bishvat Seder that shows the ongoing creative genius of Jewish spiritual renewal- to this very day!


The Kabbalah of the Trees

Jewish spirituality teaches that the world of the senses is an extension and reflection of the spiritual world.  We reach the spiritual through the physical and the physical through the spiritual.  Everything on earth points to and teaches a divine truth. Each kind of fruit represents a different spiritual energy.  By connecting the spiritual universe  to the physical fruit through enjoying it in a mindful, sacred way, we open a channel for spiritual energy- blessing- to flow into the world.    


Tu Bishvat

The roots (pun intended) of the New Year of the Trees lie in that part of the Oral Torah known as the Mishna, given to Moses on Sinai along with the Written Torah and passed down the generations.  The Torah tells us that when we plant a fruit tree, we must leave the first three years of fruit bearing harvest to fall naturally from the tree for whoever would like to eat it.  The fourth year, we bring the fruit to Jerusalem to share with the nation and from the fifth year on, we may use it for our own needs.  Tu Bishvat, which means the Fifteenth day of the Month of Shevat, is how we date the planting of a tree.  Any tree planted before Tu Bisvhat is considered one year old on Tu Bishvat and then the timing continues from there.  


Why on the 15th of Shevat?  The ancient Rabbinical masters of the School of Hillel observed that in the Land of Israel, at the first full moon after the winter solstice, the sap in the trees begins to rise heralding spring.   This moment is called Rosh HaShana L’Ilan- the Head of the Year of the Tree.  Which tree? The Tree of Life, a powerful metaphor for Judaism’s take on reality: just as the tree draws moisture and nurturance from deep in the earth and extends it to branch, flower and fruit, so do we draw strength and nurturance from the Divine Flow of Love.

The Seder

The Tu Bishvat Seder was created in the 16th Century in the Land of Israel.  The late Middle Ages was a period of upheaval:After periods of upheaval; the age of the Crusades and the expulsions of Jewish communities in Europe culminating in the destruction of the last great Jewish community in the world: the Jews of Spain in 1492, the world was a bleak and dark place for our people.  Nearly half of the world’s Jews were forced to live hidden lives in Spain, Portugal and the Italian peninsula.   

But thanks to courageous and audacious leaders like Dona Gratzia Mendes and others who stood up for their people, organized routes of escape and stood up to bullying rulers, things began to change.  Jews began to make their way back to the Land of Israel. They established thriving communities in Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias and especially in Safed.  There, they rediscovered their Jewish roots and identities.  Just as the land of Israel nurtures the seven special fruits, grains and vegetables mentioned in the Torah (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, olives and dates), so did it nurture the souls of the Jews who had been forced to hide and deny who they were.  In celebration of their renewal and the renewal of the land, they created the ritual of the Tu Bishvat Seder which speaks still to us today.

In the twentieth century, as thousands of Jews returned home at last to Israel and reclaimed the land from neglect, overgrazing, malarial swamps and deforestation, Tu Bishvat became a festival of planting new trees and making our land of Israel, which had laid dormant for centuries, once again into a land flowing with Milk and Honey.  

The Seder: 

The Seder of Tu Bishvat revolves around two symbols.  The first is the symbolic meaning of eating fruit and the second is the symbolic meaning of drinking wine/juice.

Fruit comes in three varieties: 

Fruit that has a rind that must be removed- like oranges, nuts and bananas, fruit that has an inedible pit, like olives and dates and fruit that is completely edible, like berries and figs.  

The Kabbalah teaches that blessings are like the fruit: some blessings have to be “peeled”- you have to work very hard to remove the rind and find the blessing within.  Other blessings have a hard pit- you can enjoy them but watch out for that pit which represents overdoing it.  Finally, there are some blessings that come without any strings attached: blessings like family, Torah, learning, sharing and supporting.   

At the Seder, we eat each of these kinds of blessings/fruit mindfully and gratefully. 

The second symbol is the yearly cycle of growth.  We drink four cups of wine or juice.   The first cup is white wine which represents the lifelessness of winter.  The second cup adds a bit of red representing early spring when the life of new growth returns.  The third cup is full on spring, half white and half red and the last cup is all red to show summer.  We add just a bit of white though to show that the process repeats and renews. 

So to have a Seder, all you do is alternate the symbols.  Peel a fruit, read a Torah verse, say the blessing and eat it!  Then read a verse, say the blessing over wine and drink a l’chaim… then repeat!  Like this:


Adath Shalom’s Tree of Life Tu Bishvat Seder


B’ruchim HaBa’im!  Welcome to Our Tu Bishvat Seder

The Torah teaches that the 15th of Shevat is the new year of the trees.  In this celebration, called a Seder, we will taste, share and explore the blessings of trees, our holy Torah and the sparks of blessing within your soul!  Enjoy!


Let’s start with this song, taken from the Book of Proverbs: Torah is a Tree of Life!

Song: It is a Tree of Life

Please sing along!  

Eytz Chaim Hee L’machazikim Ba v’chol Tomcheah Me’ushar!

It is a Tree of Life to all who hold fast to it and all of its supporters are happy!



Reader 1:

The Torah says that Adonai planted a beautiful garden for us- humanity, G-d’s children.  On this day, when in the Land of Israel the trees awaken from their winter sleep, we celebrate the renewal of the world of nature.  Our Creator placed all sorts of blessings in the World Garden for us to enjoy.  Let’s enjoy some delicious fruit and celebrate the blessings!


Reader 2:

We begin with the Cup of Winter; white wine or juice.  Our trees and all of nature seem to be not alive at all.  But deep within the roots, the tiny, hidden spark of life and strength is ready to awaken.  In times when we feel most alone or afraid, when we connect to that spark of G-d’s light within, we become uplifted.  So let’s uplift our wintery glass and celebrate the cold, crisp days and the crystal clear nights bright with stars!

Adonai, Source of Blessing, Your Presence fills Creation, Creator of the Fruit of the Vine! 

All Drink a L’chaim!  Sip the wine and talk about the blessings of winter!  


Reader 3

Some of life’s blessings start hard.   You have to work and struggle and prepare to achieve a goal.  But in the end, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labors!  In the same way, let’s take a fruit that has a hard peel or shell and as we peel it and eat it, everyone share one blessing, like learning to play an instrument, learn a sports skill or anything else, that involves a struggle to get to the good part!  

Working to Peel the Fruit is hard- but it’s worth it! 


Enjoy the fruit and go around with each person sharing a blessing that they worked hard for.

Reader 4

Let’s take our white wine or juice and add a drop of red!  See how the color changes?  This is like springtime.  The tiny, hidden spark of life suddenly grows and spreads blessing and joy.  Think about the renewal of hope, about warm days and flowers and how the trees become covered with blossoms.  All from a little spark!  That’s just how it is with us.  The smallest Mitzvah- lighting Shabbat candles, saying Shema, reaching out to someone who is going through hard times- can lift us up!  L’chaim!

All add a drop of red juice, say the Boreh Pri HaGafen and enjoy!

                                                                                    Reader 5

There are some blessings in life that you can enjoy- but watch out!  That’s why some fruit has hard pits that can really do a number on your teeth if you’re not careful!   Things like eating ice cream, time on the game console, watching TV or visiting websites are all great and fun.. As long as you don’t overdo it!  Just like eating a peach or an olive carefully, we have to learn to limit ourselves.  Some do so by setting a timer for how long to spend.  Better might be to use a certain amount of time watching TV etc. as a way to reward yourself after doing something difficult or challenging.  As you enjoy a fruit with a pit, each person share how they use self-control to properly enjoy blessings that you shouldn’t overdo!


            Say the blessing enjoy a fruit with a pit!


                  Fruit with pits remind us to be careful and moderate with some of life’s blessings


Reader Six

The Land of Israel is called by the Torah, “A Land flowing with Milk and Honey”.  But the milk that is meant isn’t just from an animal.  It’s the milky white flour made from wheat.  The honey isn’t just bee honey: it’s honey that comes from dates, the fruit of the palm tree.  Trees give us air to breathe, food to eat, control climate change, hold the soil that can grow crops, provide habitat for animals and humans alike and so much more!  Trees are awesome!  So let’s sing about our beautiful land of Israel, the land flowing with milk and honey!


Eretz Z’vat Chalav, Chalav U’devash!      It is a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey!


Just a few spectacular scenes of our Land of Israel- and yummy date honey!

Reader Seven

Time to drink the cup of early summer!  Half red and half white.  The leaves of the trees have finally appeared and we start spending more time outside.  The world of nature welcomes us- to hike, play, ride bikes, hang out and just BE!  In the same way, when people fill themselves with thoughts of kindness and care for each other, friendship and fun create a place of welcome.  It might be cold outside now, but with kindness and care, we can create summer wherever we go!  L’chaim!


Mix white and red and say,

Reader Eight

And then there are blessings in the world that you don’t have to struggle for and you don’t have to be careful of.  There are some blessings that are just for us to enjoy.  Time with friends and family, people we really trust and care for, learning Torah and the stories and teachings of HaShem and the Jewish people, doing Mitzvot, doing things that we love and help us feel alive: these are the purest blessings.  And of them all the ones that we do out of love are the greatest.

Let’s enjoy a fruit that has no peel or pit like a strawberry, apple, fig or many others and say the blessing:                       

B’tayavon- Enjoy the Fruit!


Reader Nine

We have almost come to the end of our Seder.  We have gone from winter to summer.  Now we take the last glass: all red.  But we add a tiny drop of white to remind us that there will always be challenges, always struggles for us.  If G-d loves us, G-d’s children, why did G-d allow things in the world that make it hard?  Maybe because when we overcome hardship, we grow stronger as people.  We can become more powerful, kinder, wiser and can learn to enjoy life even more.  So let’s drink that last cup, the cup of summer with just a hint of autumn to remind us to always find something positive and joyful in all of the seasons of our lives.  L’chaim!

Drink the final cup


Reader Ten

Before we conclude our Seder, you might have noticed that the four cups and the three kinds of fruits add up to seven, the number of the Days of Creation.  We drank four cups but only ate three kinds of fruit.  Isn’t there a kind of fruit to go with the last cup, the cup that is all red, all life, all joy?  The answer is yes: there is one last kind of fruit.  But it isn’t a fruit that grows on a physical tree.  The final fruit is the pure taste: the spiritual fruit right from G-d without being physical at all.  As we say the final blessing, let us try to simply imagine ourselves sitting atop Mount Zion in Jerusalem before the Holy Temple.  An angel brings us a fruit and we enjoy it.  Try to taste it in your mind and heart.  Try to feel peace, joy and kindness and bring that mystical taste of the spiritual fruit with you. 

Even though here, unlike Israel, we are in the midst of winter, let us remember that there is an endless summer in a heart filled with holiness, love and kindness.  After this blessing, let’s have a moment of silence to enjoy the final fruit, the fruit of the spirit, on our own.  

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, HaTov V’Hameitiv: Adonai,  G-d, You are the Source of Blessing: All Goodness comes from You. 


A few moments of silence and then…


L’shana HaBa’ah B’Yerushalayim HaBenuya!  Next Year in Rebuilt Jerusalem!                     

Look familiar?  Our Aron Kodesh (Ark) door shows Jerusalem being Rebuilt from on High.  





Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784