Updated: Feb 2
Although the weather may be gloomy with rainfall, thunder, and lightning, the 15th of Shvat marks the New Year for Trees.
Tu B'Shvat is a reminder, a wake-up call, that change - and spring - are inevitably coming.
Rashi explains Tu B'Shvat is when the sap of new life begins to rise in the trees, which leads to the production of new fruit. In other words, even though we can't see it yet, Tu B'Shvat is when the magic starts. In Deuteronomy 20:19 it says “a human being is a tree,” insisting that what is true for trees is also true for us humans. Nature and humans are divinely connected. The weather impacts our mood and teaches us the inevitable cycle of death and rebirth. As the breathtaking blossoms and tasty fruits, we all love will reach their climax in spring they are now just beginning to grow. The growth is still invisible to our eyes, but Tu B'Shvat invites us into a greater awareness of what is happening beneath the surface and all around us.
To explore the idea that we are like trees, our teachers through generations point out we, as humans, also produce fruits with our actions, speech, and offspring. Furthermore, they point out that our own creative process parallels that of trees; long before we have something tangible of value to share with the world, there are deep processes we experience within, our own inner “sap” of creativity and desire must arise and flow to allow new possibilities to manifest. The process is hidden, intimate, and unique for humans and for the trees. As everyone slowly begins to wake up from their winter hibernation, what is occurring now in the process will soon manifest in surprising and nourishing ways.
According to Kabbalah, Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the trees and on this day we are able to determine the constitution and character of a person based on the fruit they produce. Like the various types of fruits with the peel outside (klipa-impurity), pit inside (klipa-impurity), and fruit with no klipa-impurities shell/skin/pit inside or outside.
Kabbalah teaches the secret of Tu B’Shvat is to rectify the sin of Adam (eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge good and evil) causing sparks of holiness to fall to the klipa represented by some of the fruits we eat. When making the proper blessings we lift up the sparks that fell into the trees and various fruits and thereby repairing creation.
Our rebirth and liberation are always reflected in the natural world around us. We know this because the Hebrew calendar is designed so that our reenactment of the Exodus from Egypt, the Passover Seder, usually takes place on the full moon closest to the spring equinox. During Passover in the month of Nissan to which the Torah calls “The month of Spring” (Exodus 23:15), the Northern Hemisphere is at its peak of spring. Therefore it reveals to us our rebirth is parallel to nature's.
Spring reveals to us a fresh start and mirrors our own potential. Tu B’Shvat, which marks a key point in beginning the new cycle of life in the trees around us, is therefore also a key moment in our own rebirth and liberation. This is brought home beautifully by the annual Torah cycle, which places the Torah portions describing the Exodus as close as possible to Tu B’Shvat. For those of us who follow the weekly readings, their words give us a preview of what hopefully awaits us when spring fully arrives.
Tu B’Shvat reminds us there is hope. Things can change. There is always a chance to move forward, start new, and break free from our personal struggles. Change is embedded within nature thus it is only natural for us to renew. What appears to be mundane and simple in fact reveals to us there is liberation and renewal present for those that want to choose it.
The Tu B’Shvat Seder was created by Kabbalists of the 16th century Tzfat (Safed) in the Galilee created a Tu B'Shvat Seder. This Seder mirrors the Passover Seder, and serves to help us experience the potential for renewal and growth that this season brings. This Seder prepares us for a deep renewal that is coming. It takes us on a personal journey that explores and awakens personal greatness and freedom.
Just like the Passover Seder, there are four cups of wine, each one associated with the 4 brains (Chochmah-Wisdom-1, Bina-Understanding-2, Daat-Knowledge-3-4). The cups of wine in the Tu-B’Shvat Seder represent the four worlds of Atzilut-Emanation (highest), Beriah-Creation, Yetzirah-Formation, Assiah-Doing/action (lowest).
May you be blessed with personal renewal alongside the trees around you and bring to life the fruits of your dreams. Click the links below to download the Tu B'Shvat Seder guide and to learn more about this Seder Tu B’Shvat according to Ra'Shash (Hebrew)