Tu B'shevat & The Mystical Tu B’shevat Seder

Image relating to [title]

As the moon becomes full in the Hebrew month of shevat, illuminating the winter landscape, we celebrate one of our four Jewish New Years: Tu b’shevat, the New Year dedicated to honoring the trees and the abundant gifts they offer with such generosity.

Reverence for trees is an ancient practice of our tradition.   For a time our ancestors worshipped the Divine through trees, calling her asherah or elat.  A 7-branch menorah symbolizing a tree was built for the Temple to declare our relationship with the Infinite Msytery.  Jewish mystics called the Divine life-force etz chayyim, Living Tree.  The Hasidim gave us the practice of hitbodedut in-depth meditation and prayer done walking among the trees of the forests. 

Jewish mystics created a Tu b’Shevat seder, a ritual with food, drink, song and meditation, to honor the lift force rising within trees and all life. For them, the Tu B’shevat was a time to acknowledge the intricate mysterious patterns of creation and to travel in and between the 4 mystical worlds: assiyah, the physical world, yetzira, the world of feelings, emotions, bri’ah, the world of intuition, insight, vision and azilut, the world of pure Divine Presence. They traveled in these realms focusing on the fruits and gifts of the trees for the sake of healing and mending the world.

It is beautiful to engage in this ancient tradition to help guide us in caring for and healing earth and all creation..

Our seder was different from other years, as each of us were at our own tables. There was still excitement and wonderful opportunities that arose for sacred connection. If you wish to view the January 27th 2021 Mishkan Shalom Tu B'Shevat Seder click here.

To prepare for the Tu B’shevat seder, we invite you to set a sacred table at home.

On the table you might want to place sacred objects including rocks, crystals, plants and other items form the natural world. Include on your table fruits from each of the four worlds and white and red grape juice or wine:

  • For the world of assiyah, the physical world, choose a fruit or nut with an outside coving that needs to be peeled or opened in order to be eaten: a banana, orange or grapefruit, walnut, peanut, almond or pistachio in their shells.
  • For the world of yetzira, the world of feelings, emotions, have a fruit with an inside pit: olives, dates, cherries.
  • For the world of bri’ah, the world of intuition, insight, vision, choose a fruit that can be eaten in its entirety: figs, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, apples
  • The world of azilut: Divine emanation has no fruits. We experience this world with deep red wine/grape juice.

Additional Resources:

Mishkan Shalom member Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a leading light of Contemporary Jewry and voice of ecological and spiritual Jewish renewal, directs us to listen deeply to our hearts and take action for the future of the planet as well.   The Reconstructionist Movement also has resources for Tu B'Shvat.

Photo credit: "Philadelphia, Feb-2020" by maltman23 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

4101 Freeland Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19128 - ph: (215) 508-0226 / office@mishkan.org Site map