Tu B’Shevat: The Holiday That Judaism Forgot

Text for this class can be downloaded here.

Tu B’Shevat: It’s What You Make It

Quick Facts:
-15th of Shevat (according to Hillel)
-Minor holiday, non-Biblical. Probably a nature festival of old (The Jewish Festivals by Hayyim Schauss). Related to the wood sacrifices at the Temple.
-Only important because it’s mentioned in Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 2a. Jewish months have Babylonian origin.
-Became a Kabbalistic holiday with Tu B’Shevat seder
-Reinterpreted as an environmental holiday

Talmud (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 2a) — Mishnah in CAPITALS. Commentary in lowercase.

THERE ARE FOUR NEW YEARS. ON THE FIRST OF NISAN IS NEW YEAR FOR KINGS AND FOR FESTIVALS.

Talmud goes on to argue that first of Nisan is the birthday of the creation of the world

ON THE FIRST OF ELUL IS NEW YEAR FOR THE TITHE OF CATTLE. R. ELEAZAR AND R. SIMEON, HOWEVER, PLACE THIS ON THE FIRST OF TISHRI.

This time is the preparation for High Holidays

ON THE FIRST OF TISHRI IS NEW YEAR FOR YEARS, FOR RELEASE AND JUBILEE YEARS, FOR PLANTATION AND FOR [TITHE OF] VEGET ABLES.

This is Rosh Hashanah

ON THE FIRST OF SHEBAT IS NEW YEAR FOR TREES, ACCORDING TO THE RULING OF BETH SHAMMAI; BETH HILLEL, HOWEVER, PLACE IT ON THE FIFTEENTH OF THAT MONTH.

Talmud sides with Rabbi Hillel, and Tu B’Shevat was born.

If you want to read more on this, download the text here.

Why Should We Care?
• Orlah refers to a biblical prohibition (Leviticus 19:23) on eating the fruit of trees
produced during the first three years after they are planted.
• Neta Reva’i refers to the biblical commandment (Leviticus 19:24) to bring fourth-
year fruit crops to Jerusalem as a tithe.[5]
• Maaser Sheni was a tithe which was eaten in Jerusalem and Maaser Ani was a
tithe given to the poor (Deuteronomy 14:22-29) that were also calculated by whether the fruit ripened before or after Tu Bishvat. (Wikipedia.org)

The reason for worrying about calendar dates is to know how to observe the mitzvoth in our time.

Tu B’Shevat and Kabbalah
• 17th century Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed and his disciples created a Tu Bishvat seder that celebrated the Tree of Life (the Kabbalistic map of the Sephirot).
• The earliest published version of this seder is called the P’ri Eitz Hadar, which means “The Fruit of the Beautiful Tree”. Controversial, as it was written by Nathan of Gaza, who was a prophet for the alleged messiah, Sabbatai Zevi.

Tu B’Shevat Seder
Seder means “order”. This is the basic order of a Tu B’Shevat seder, but remember, there is not set liturgy

Four Kinds of Fruit:

  • Fruit that is hard on the outside and soft on the inside, such as walnuts, coconuts, or almonds.
  • Fruit that is soft with a pit in the center–olives or dates [or peaches, apricots, etc.]
  • Fruit that is soft throughout and is completely edible, such as figs, grapes, and raisins.
  • Fruit that has a tough skin on the outside but sweet fruit within–mangos, bananas, avocados

Four Kinds of Wine:

  • White
  • White with a drop of red
  • Red with a drop of white
  • Red

Brachot (Blessings):

Candle Lighting (not traditional)
Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu shel Tu B’shevat

She-ecḥeyanu
Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, she- ecḥeyanu ve’qi’eh’manu, va’higiy’anu laz’man hazeh.

Handwashing
Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu al netilat yadayim.

Cup of Wine
Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam borei peri ha-gafen.

The Fruit of the Tree
Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, borei peri ha-etz.

Tu B’Shevat Haggadot

Hillel.org

Aish HaTorah

 

Ritual Well (Reconstruction)


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