בסיעתא דשמיא

ט״וּ בִּשְׁבָט | The Trees are Davvening (abridged), a Tu Bishvat Haggadah by Dr. Barak Gale and Dr. Ami Goodman

A Tu biShvat Haggadah
Abridged from the original “The Trees are Davvening”,
by Dr. Barak Gale and Dr. Ami Goodman, 1991
With excerpts from P’ri Etz Hadar — Fruit of the Tree, the original 17th century Tu biShvat seder

Introduction


אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי.‏
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

The ecological crisis threatens
our health,
our children’s future,


וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי.‏
If I am only for myself, what am I?

the well-being of all of God’s children,
the survival of multitudes of species,
the very integrity of Creation.


וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי.‏
If not now, WHEN?

— Hillel the Elder, Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Father 1:14


בשעה שברא הקדוש ברוך הוא את אדם הראשון,
נטלו והחזירו על כל אילני גן עדן,
ואמר לו: ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן,
וכל מה שבראתי, בשבילך בראתי,
תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי,
שאם קלקלת אין מי שיתקן אחריך.
ולא עוד שאת גורם מיתה לאותו צדיק.‏
God led Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, “Look at My works. See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world -for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.”

Tu biShvat, the 15th of the month of Shevat, was designated by the Talmud as the New Year for the Trees. It was tax time for HaShem, a time of tithing for the poor. This tithing has its origin in the following Torah verse: “Every year, you shall set aside a tenth part of the yield, so that you may learn to revere your God forever.” The Kabbalists of 17th century Safed developed the model of tikkun olam that we embrace today — healing the world by gathering the scattered holy sparks. To encourage the Divine flow — shefa — and to effect Tikkun Olam, the Kabbalists of Safed (16th century) created a Tu biShvat seder loosely modeled after the Passover seder.

In recent decades we have learned how the well being of trees is intimately connected to the well being of all creation. This relationship is clearly stated in the following Midrash: “If not for the trees, human life could not exist.” Today the stakes of environmental stewardship have become very high. Tu biShvat calls upon us to cry out against the enormity of destruction and degradation being inflicted upon God’s world. This degradation includes global warming, massive deforestation, the extinction of species, poisonous deposits of toxic chemicals and nuclear wastes, and exponential population growth. We are also deeply concerned that the poor suffer disproportionately from environmental degradation. Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote: “[Human beings have] indeed become primarily tool-making animal[s], and the world is now a gigantic tool box for the satisfaction of [their] needs…”

Rabbi Heschel continues “It is when nature is sensed as mystery and grandeur that it calls upon us to look beyond it.” On this night we express our joy and thankfulness for the mystery and grandeur of nature, and renew our commitment to be responsible custodians of God’s world. Tonight we will crack open some shells of nuts, and like the Kabbalists of the 16th century, release some sparks of holy light.

Preparation for the Tu biShvat Seder

A Psalm and blessings in nature to get in the Tu biShvat spirit


שִׁ֗יר לַֽמַּ֫עֲלֹ֥ות
אֶשָּׂ֣א עֵ֭ינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִ֑ים מֵַ֝֗יִן יָבֹ֥א עֶזְרִֽי׃
עֶ֭זְרִי מֵעִ֣ם יְהוָ֑ה עֹ֝שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ׃ 
PSALM 121 — ESAH EINAI

I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Eternal, Maker of heaven and earth

Esah einai el he-harim, Mei -ayin, mei- ayin ya-avo ezri (2x)
Ezri me-im Hashem Oseh shamayim va-aretz (2x)


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֶלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, עׂשֶֹה מַעֲשֵֹה בְרֵאשִׁית:‏

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֶלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶכָּכָה לוֹ בָּעוֹלָמוֹ:‏

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֶלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶלֹא חִסַר בעולם דבר וברבו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים להנות בהם אדם׃

We praise You, YHVH our God, Creator of the universe, who continually does the work of creation.
Baruch ata, YHVH Eloheinu, melech [ruach] ha-olam, o-seh ma-asei v’rei-sheet.

We praise You, YHVH our God, Creator of the universe, whose world is filled with beauty.
Baruch ata, YHVH Eloheinu, melech [ruach] ha-olam, she-kacha lo b’olamo.

We praise You, YHVH our God, Creator of the universe, Your world lacks nothing needful; You have fashioned goodly creatures and lovely trees that enchant the heart
Baruch ata, YHVH Eloheinu, melech [ruach] ha-olam, shelo chisar ba-olam davar u-varavo b’ri-ot tovot v’ilanot tovim l’hanot bahem b’nei adam

The Tu biShvat seder, like the Passover seder, follows a specific order. The seder is divided into four parts, representing the four worlds of the mystics. As in the Pesach seder, we drink four cups of wine, each cup here changing color to correspond to the changing seasons. Unique to the Tu BiShvat seder is the ritual consumption of fifteen types of fruits and nuts, with special significance for the first three of the four worlds. According to kabbalah, the four worlds are: Assiyah (action — our world of physical reality), Y’tzirah (formation — feeling), B’riah (creation — knowledge), and Atzilut (emanation-spirit).

Pri Eitz Hadar Prayer (excerpts)


ויהי רצון מלפניך ה׳ אלהינו ואלהי אבותינו, שבכח סגולת אכילת הפרות שנאכל ונברך עליהם, היום הזה הבא עלינו לטובה, ואשר נהגה בסוד שרשהן העליונים, אשר המה תלויים בם, להשפיע עליהן שפע רצון ברכה ונדבה, וגם הממונים והמושטרים עליהם, יתמלאו מעוז שפע הודן, לשוב שנית להגדילם ולהצמיחם, מראשית השנה ועד אחרית השנה, לטובה ולברכה, לחיים טובים ולשלום.‏
May it be Your will, O Lord our God and God of our ancestors, that through the sacred power of our eating fruit, which we are now eating and blessing, while reflecting on the secret of their supernal roots upon which they depend, that shefa (life-force, Divine flow), favor, blessing and bounty be bestowed upon them. May the angels appointed over them also be filled by the powerful shefa of their glory, may it return and cause them to grow a second time, from the beginning of the year and until its end, for bounty and blessing, for good life and peace.

וקיים לנו את הדבר שהבטחתנו על ידי מלאכי חוזך: “וְגָעַרְתִּ֤י לָכֶם֙ בָּֽאֹכֵ֔ל וְלֹֽא־יַשְׁחִ֥ת לָכֶ֖ם אֶת־פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֑ה וְלֹא־תְשַׁכֵּ֨ל לָכֶ֤ם הַגֶּ֙פֶן֙ בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה אָמַ֖ר יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת”ׁ(מלאכי ג:יא).‏ ”הַשְׁקִיפָה֩ מִמְּע֨וֹן קָדְשְׁךָ֜ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם…” (דברים כו:טו), וברך עלינו את השנה הזאת לטובה ולברכה,‏
And fulfill for us the word which you promised us through Malachi, Your seer, “And I will banish the devourer from among you and he will not destroy the fruit of the earth and the vine of your field will not miscarry, says the Lord of Hosts.” Look down from your sacred dwelling place in heaven and bless us this year with bounty and blessing…

ומשם יושפע עלינו שפע רצון וברכה, הצלחה בריאות ורחמים, ולמחול ולסלוח, עוונותינו, ואשמינו, אשר נואלנו, ואשר חטאנו, והיינו מרשיעי ברית, ופגמנו בפרי צדיק חי העולמים, ומנענו רביבי השפעתו, ונשחתו כל מקורות, ‏
May shefa, favor, and compassion be bestowed upon us, to pardon and forgive the iniquities and misdeeds that we committed and sinned. We violated the covenant and damaged the fruit of Tzaddik, the Life of the Worlds, and caused the rains of its beneficence to be withheld, so that all the sources of shefa were harmed…

ויוסר מהם כל רע…
וישוב הכל לאיתנו הראשון ולא ידח ממנו נידח…
‏”אז ירננו עצי היער” ועץ השדה נשא ענף ועשה פרי דבר יום ביומו.
במהרה בימינו, אמן.
וִיהִ֤י׀ נֹ֤עַם אֲדֹנָ֥י אֱלֹהֵ֗ינוּ עָ֫לֵ֥ינוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂ֣ה יָ֭דֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָ֥ה עָלֵ֑ינוּ וּֽמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָ֝דֵ֗ינוּ כּוֹנְנֵֽהוּ׃ (תהלים צ׃יז)‏
May all evil be removed…
And may everything return to its original might and not be rejected…
Then the trees of the forest will rejoice and the tree of the field lift its branches and bear fruit daily…
May it occur swiftly, in our days, amen…
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favor before You, YHVH, my rock and my redeemer.
“May the favor of the Lord, our God, be upon us [establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.]”

World of Assiyah — Action


ומעשה ידינו כוננהו בכח סגולת התקון הזה הנעשה בעצם היום הזה בכח הברכו׳ ואשר ילוה אליהם הוות סוד שורשן תתעוררנא בקומתם וצביונ״ למעלה. ונותף גם הוא כי בספר התקון הלו מעוות לו‏
“And establish for us, the work of our hands.” Through the special power of this tikkun, performed on this very day, through the power of the blessings and contemplation of the mystery of the fruit’s divine roots, an effect will be produced in their structure and character above. Moreover the person performing the tikkun can also be affected. — from Pri Eitz Hadar

How might we engage “the work of our hands” in tikkun olam, in repairing the earth? How might we “be affected” by such work?


לתקון הדבר הזה יאותה לנו בעצם היום הזה לאכול כל ומיני פירות ולברך עליהן בכוונה זו כי חביבה מצוה בשעתה.‏
“In order to effect this tikkun, it is fitting for us to eat all kinds of fruit on this very day and to bless them with this intention. For a mitzvah is best when performed at the proper time.” — from Pri Eitz Hadar

כָּל שֶׁחָכְמָתוֹ מְרֻבָּה מִמַּעֲשָׂיו , לְמָה הוּא דּוֹמֶה, לְאִילָן שֶׁעֲנָפָיו מְרֻבִּין וְשָׁרָשָׁיו מֻעָטִין, וְהָרוּחַ בָּאָה וְעוֹקַרְתּוֹ וְהוֹפְכְתוֹ עַל פָּנָיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה, יז), וְהָיָה כְּעַרְעָר בָּעֲרָבָה וְלֹא יִרְאֶה כִּי יָבוֹא טוֹב וְשָׁכַן חֲרֵרִים בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶרֶץ מְלֵחָה וְלֹא תֵשֵׁב.
אֲבָל כָּל שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂיו מְרֻבִּין מֵחָכְמָתוֹ, לְמָה הוּא דּוֹמֶה, לְאִילָן שֶׁעֲנָפָיו מֻעָטִין וְשָׁרָשָׁיו מְרֻבִּין, שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ כָּל הָרוּחוֹת שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם בָּאוֹת וְנוֹשְׁבוֹת בּוֹ אֵין מִזִּיזִין אוֹתוֹ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שם,), וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל מַיִם וְעַל יוּבָל יִשְׁלַח שָׁרָשָׁיו וְלֹא יִרְאֶה כִּי יָבֹא חֹם, וְהָיָה עָלֵהוּ רַעֲנָן, וּבִשְׁנַת בַּצֹּרֶת לֹא יִדְאָג, וְלֹא יָמִישׁ מֵעֲשׂוֹת פֶּרִי.‏
Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria (a Talmudic sage of the 1st century CE) said: “Anytime our wisdom exceeds our good deeds, to what are we likened? — to a tree whose branches are numerous but whose roots are few; then the wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down…. But when our good deed exceed our wisdom, to what are we likened? — to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous; even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place…”

רב ורבי חנינא ור’ יוחנן ורב חביבא מתנו בכוליה דסדר מועד כל כי האי זוגא חלופי רבי יוחנן ומעייל רבי יונתן כל מי שאפשר למחות לאנשי ביתו ולא מיחה נתפס על אנשי ביתו…‏
Rav, Rabbi Hanina, Rabbi Yochanan, and Rav Habiba taught the following: “Whoever can protest and prevent their household from committing a wrongdoing and does not, is accountable for the wrongdoings of their household…”

Are there any particularly egregious wrongdoings that we need to protest?


We drink pure white wine to symbolize the winter. The fruit is soft on the inside, with a hard outer shell, like our own protective layers.

השקדיה

השקדיה פורחת
ושמש פז זורחת,
ציפורים מראש הגג
מבשרות את בוא החג.‏
טוּ בשבט הגיה
חג לאילנות

THE ALMOND TREE

The almond tree is growing.
A golden sun is glowing.
Birds sing out from tree to tree.
And this is what they say to me.
Tu biShvat is coming
The birthday of the trees.

Hash’keidiyah porachat,
V’shemesh paz zorachat,
Tsiporim meirosh kol, gag,
Me-vas-rot et bo hachag.
Tu biShvat higi-ah
Chag ha-ilanot


First course: choose five from the following: pomegranates, walnuts, almonds, coconuts, pine nuts, pistachios, chestnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts or pecans.

The following blessings are recited before eating the fruits and nuts, and drinking the wine.
May it be your will, Hashem, that by virtue of our blessing and eating these fruits, we (offer your own blessing).

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הָעֵץ:‏

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶּה:‏

We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe who creates the fruit of the tree.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-etz

We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen.

We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe for giving us life, for sustaining us and for enabling us to reach this season.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, she-he-cheyanu ve-kiyemanu ve-higi-anu laz’man ha-zeh

World of Yetzirah — Feeling


‏…‏‏יש בכח הדבור להיות מעורר כח מדות העליונות להאירן באור מופלא יתר גדול מאד להשפיע שפ׳ רצון ברכה ונדבה בכל העולמות‏
“…speech has the power to arouse the sefirot and to cause them to shine more wondrously with a very great light that sheds abundance, favor, blessing, and benefit throughout all the worlds.” — from Pri Eitz Hadar

How can we use our power of speech to “arouse the sefirot”? What feeling can we convey?


“In order to serve God, one needs access to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature, such as the contemplation of flower-decorated meadows, majestic mountains, flowing rivers, and so forth. For all these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest of people.” (Rabbi Avraham ben Moshe ben Maimon, 1186-1237)

And if you ask me of God, my God. ‘Where is God that in joy we may worship?’ Here on Earth too God lives, not in Heaven alone. A striking fir, a rich furrow, in them you will find God’s likeness. Divine image incarnate in every high mountain. Wherever the breath of life flows, you will find God embodied. And God’s household? All being: the gazelle, the turtle, the shrub, the cloud pregnant with thunder. God in creation is God’s eternal name. (Saul Tchernikovsky, Haskalah poet)

We drink white wine with a dash of red, reminding us of early spring, when the thawing from winter begins in earnest. We find deep feelings hidden within, like the fruit with pits inside.

Date — Tamar

The date palm abounds in blessing, for every part of it can be used, every part is needed. Its dates are for eating, its branches are for blessing on Sukkot; its fronds are for thatching, its fibers are for ropes; its webbing for sieves; its thick trunks for builiding. The date reminds us of the commandment — Bal Tashchit — to not waste.


אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ (דברים ו׃ג)‏
A land flowing with milk and honey

Eretz zavat chalav.
Eretz zavat chalav.
Chalav ud’vash


Choose from five of the following: dates, peaches, olives, cherries, apricots, plums.

The following blessings are recited before eating the fruits and nuts, and drinking the wine.
May it be your will, Hashem, that by virtue of our blessing and eating these fruits, we (offer your own blessing).

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הָעֵץ:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏

We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe who creates the fruit of the tree.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-etz

We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen.

World of Briyah — Knowledge


אנא האל העושה והיוצר והבורא והמאציל עולמות עליונים, ובצורתם ובצביונם בראת דוגמתן על הארץ מתחת,‏ כלם בחכמה עשית… ואילנות ודשאים, מן האדמה הצמחת, בקומתם ובצביונם של מעלה, להודיע לבני אדם, חכמה ותבונה,‏
“Please, God, who makes, forms, creates, and emanates supernal worlds and created their likeness on the earth below, according to their supernal form and character. ‘All of them You made with wisdom’… You caused trees and grass to grow from the earth, according to the structure and character of the forms above, so that human beings might gain wisdom and understanding through them…” — from Pri Eitz Hadar

In what ways do the forests, the many creatures, the climate, teach us wisdom and understanding? What do we learn from their “structure and character”?


The branch and the tree

An Israelite in her relationship to the community has been likened to a branch growing on a tree. As long as the branch is still attached to the tree, there is hope it may renew its vigor no matter how withered it has become; but, once the living branch falls away, all hope is lost. So it is with a species — if endangered, there is still hope. Once extinct, all hope is lost. Nachmanides said: “Scripture does not permit a destructive act that will cause the extinction of a species.”

How do we grapple with the stark reality that humanity is causing an extinction spasm, the likes of which the planet has seldom seen? According to the World Resources Institute, we are heading towards losing fifty percent of the species of our planet by the end of the century.


‏[וְהָיָ֤ה] פִרְיוֹ֙ לְמַֽאֲכָ֔ל וְעָלֵ֖הוּ לִתְרוּפָֽה׃ (יחזקאל מז:יב).‏
“Its fruit is food and Its leaves a source of healing.” — from Pri Eitz Hadar

How is nature healing? How is this statement a teaching of bal tashchit? Why is biodiversity so important?


כִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתָפְשָׂהּ לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר. רַק עֵץ אֲשֶׁר תֵּדַע כִּי לֹא עֵץ מַאֲכָל הוּא אֹתוֹ תַשְׁחִית וְכָרָתָּ וּבָנִיתָ מָצוֹר עַל הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר הִוא עֹשָׂה עִמְּךָ מִלְחָמָה עַד רִדְתָּהּ.‏
Bal Tashchit — not wasting a thing

“When you besiege a city many days to bring it into your power by making war against it, you shall not destroy the trees thereof by swinging an axe against them; from them you may eat but you may not destroy them; for is the tree of the field human to withdraw before you?” (Deut.20:19-20). This prohibition serves as the foundation for an important principle of Jewish law: bal tashchit — the needless destruction of anything is wrong (various interpretations of this principle in the Talmud!).


“This text becomes the most comprehensive warning to human beings not to misuse the position which God has given them as masters of the world and its matter by capricious, passionate or merely thoughtless wasteful destruction of anything on earth. Only for wise use has God laid the world at our feet…” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on Deuteronomy 20:20.

לרבי טרפון קרא לו גל אבנים. ויש אומרים, גל של אגוזים. כיון שנוטל אדם אחד מהן, כולן מתקשקשין ובאין זה על זה כך. היה ר טרפון דומה. בשעה שתלמיד חכם נכנס אצלו ואמר לו שנה לי, מביא לו מקרא ומשנה מדרש הלכות ואגדות. כיון שיצא מלפניו, היה יוצא מלא ברכה וטוב.‏
Walnuts and ecosystems — importance of biodiversity

[Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nassi compared Rabbi Tarfon to a pile of nuts. If one nut is removed, each and every walnut in the pile will be shaken. So too when asked a question concerning one part of the Torah, his answer touched on all other parts of the Torah. The community of Israel is compared to a nut: in the same way as a shell protects its fruit, so the Amei HaAretz protect Torah learning. Similarly, all Jews are responsible for each other –] when one single Jew is shaken, every other Jew is shaken and affected. Likewise, when a single species is endangered, the entire ecosystem is shaken and affected. The northern ancient forest, with its downed logs, snags or broken top trunks, beds of moss and lichen, towering canopies of branches and leaves, and cool streams, provide homes for martens, fishers, coho salmon, marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl. When the coho salmon, the owl or the murrelet are endangered, the ancient forest is crying.

Once when Rav Kook was walking in the fields, lost deep in thought, the young student with him plucked a leaf off a branch. Rav Kook was visibly shaken by this act, and turning to his companion he said gently, “Believe me when I tell you, I never simply pluck a leaf or a blade of grass or any living thing, unless I have to.” He explained further, “Every part of the vegetable world is singing a song and breathing forth a secret of the divine mystery of the Creation.” For the first time the young student understood what it means to show compassion to all creatures.

We drink red wine with a dash of white, reminding us that as the land becomes warmer and the colors of the fruits deepen as they ripen, we too become warmer and more open. At this moment of I-Thou there is no inner shell, like the fruits of B’riyah. We feel at one with each other and with all creation.

Carob — Charuv

The carob has a special place in Jewish life; during the war with Rome, the Israelites lived under a siege and managed to survive by eating the fruit of the carob tree. The Hebrew words for carob (charuv), sword (cherev), and destruction (churban) have a similar linguistic root. The carob is even sword shaped. It reminds us to temper even this joyous occasion with the remembrance of suffering throughout the world.


אמר ר’ יוחנן כל ימיו של אותו צדיק היה מצטער על מקרא זה (תהלים קכו, א) שיר המעלות בשוב ה’ את שיבת ציון היינו כחולמים אמר מי איכא דניים שבעין שנין בחלמא יומא חד הוה אזל באורחא חזייה לההוא גברא דהוה נטע חרובא אמר ליה האי עד כמה שנין טעין אמר ליה עד שבעין שנין אמר ליה פשיטא לך דחיית שבעין שנין אמר ליה האי [גברא] עלמא בחרובא אשכחתיה כי היכי דשתלי לי אבהתי שתלי נמי לבראי יתיב קא כריך ריפתא אתא ליה שינתא נים אהדרא ליה משוניתא איכסי מעינא ונים שבעין שנין כי קם חזייה לההוא גברא דהוה קא מלקט מינייהו אמר ליה את הוא דשתלתיה א”ל בר בריה אנא אמר ליה שמע מינה דניימי שבעין שנין חזא לחמריה דאתיילידא ליה רמכי רמכי אזל לביתיה אמר להו בריה דחוני המעגל מי קיים אמרו ליה בריה ליתא בר בריה איתא אמר להו אנא חוני המעגל לא הימנוהו אזל לבית המדרש שמעינהו לרבנן דקאמרי נהירן שמעתתין כבשני חוני המעגל דכי הוי עייל לבית מדרשא כל קושיא דהוו להו לרבנן הוה מפרק להו אמר להו אנא ניהו לא הימנוהו ולא עבדי ליה יקרא כדמבעי ליה חלש דעתיה בעי רחמי ומית אמר רבא היינו דאמרי אינשי או חברותא או מיתותא
A Talmudic story is told about Honi HaMagel, who saw an old man planting a carob tree. His grandchild was helping him. “Do you think you will still be alive to eat the fruit of this tree?” The old man replied, “I found trees in the world when I was born. My grandparents planted them for me. So, too, I am planting for my grandchildren.”

Choose from five of the following: carobs, strawberry, figs, apples, raisins, grapes, pears, quince, mango, berries.

The following blessings are recited before eating the fruits and nuts, and drinking the wine.
May it be your will, Hashem, that by virtue of our blessing and eating these fruits, we (offer your own blessing).

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הָעֵץ:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏

We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe who creates the fruit of the tree.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, borei p’ri ha-etz

We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen.

World of Atzilut — pure Spirit


מפני שע״י הברכה גורם להמשיך שפע עליון ע״י כח הברכות והשר הממונה על אותו הפרי הוא מתמלא משפע זה כדי לגדל הפרי שנית
“…by means of the blessing, one draws down shefa. The angel who is assigned to that fruit (which was eaten) is filled by the shefa so that a second fruit can replace the first.”

We drink deep red wine and eat no fruit, for this world cannot be represented by any fruit. The pure red wine represents the full bloom of nature before the cold winter. As nature expends its last bit of energy, a full cycle is completed.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏
The following blessing is recited before drinking the wine.
We praise You, YHVH our God, Ruler [Breathing Spirit] of the universe who creates the fruit of the vine.
Baruch ata YHVH Eloheinu melech [ruach] ha-olam, borei p’ri hagafen.

As we have passed through each world, we have changed with each season. We began by cracking open the protective shell of winter, allowing our inner sparks to engage the world, to engage in tikkun olam. We then found a pit deep within. An ego. Feelings. We came to a place where there was no distinction between the protected and the protective. Knowledge of the interdependence of all things. Finally, we become aware of God’s love, mercy, wisdom and other realities perceived with our hearts, not our senses. Our hearts are full and we praise the Source which renews all creation.

Conclusion

A Prayer for Hitbodedut by Reb Nosson


Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone;
may it be my custom to go outdoors each day
among the trees and grass — among all growing things
and there may I be alone, and enter into התבודדות [hitbodedut] prayer,
to talk with the One to whom I belong.

May I express there everything in my heart,
and may all the foliage of the field —
all grasses, trees, and plants —
awake at my coming,
to send the powers of their life into the words of my prayer
so that my prayer and speech are made whole
through the life and spirit of all growing things,
which are made as one by their transcendent Source.

May I then pour out the words of my heart
before your Presence like water, O Lord,
and lift up my hands to You in worship,
on my behalf, and that of my children!

Please reproduce this Haggadah only on 100% post consumer content paper or tree-free paper.


For me, Tu biShvat was a portal to connecting my love of Judaism and the natural world. I saw the Kabbalistic seder as deeply environmental, but wanted to connect more dots. The first Haggadah -“The Trees are Davvening” – was inspired by my friendship with Dr. Ami Goodman, and our collaboration in leading a San Francisco Community Tu biShvat Seder, which we continued to do for several years. It included themes from Ami’s earlier haggadah, but much more on environmental laws and poetry from Torah, etc, as well as themes from our beloved Sierra Nevada mountains.

Contributions to our wonderful wilderness organization, protecting wilderness for future generations, is much appreciated. See washingtonwilderness.org.

We are grateful to Dr. Barak Gale and Dr. Ami Goodman, for sharing their Tu biShvat Haggadah, The Trees Are Davvening, with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA) license. We’ll be developing their full unabTiridged version (currently online via the Coalition on the Environment & Jewish Life (COEJL) just as soon as possible. In the meantime, please feel free to adopt, adapt, modify, and redistribute the following abridged version of the work which was first posted at the Shalom Center. Accompanying text from primary sources in Hebrew and Aramaic, and source references were added by Aharon Varady.

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13
Deuteronomy 14:22-23
Midrsh Sifre to Deut. 20:19
Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, p.34, modified to be gender neutral.
ibid, p.36
Psalms 96:12
Psalm 90:12
Pirkei Avot 3:22
B.T. Shabbat 54b
Sefer HaMada 2.2; HaMispil La-Avodat Hashem
Deuteronomy 6:3
Ramban on Deuteronomy 22:6. Full quote, “Alternatively, the Torah does not permit an act of destruction, to uproot an entire species, even though it permits slaughtering (of individuals from) that species. And one who kills the mother and children on one day, or takes them when they could have the freedom to fly, it is as though he were exterminating that species” (translation from Rav Ezra Bick, Yeshivat Har Etzion, quoted from here, accessed 2010-01-19).
Ezekiel 47:12
S.R. Hirsch’s commentary on Deuteronomy 20:20
Avot D’Rabbi Natan 18. See also Git. 67a.
Shir haShirim Rabbah 6:11
I’ve corrected this portion in the Haggadah from Gale & Goodman, “Rabbi Tarfon likened the people of Israel to a pile of walnuts. If one walnut is removed, each and every walnut in the pile will be shaken. When a single Jew is shaken, every other Jew is shaken and affected (Avot D’Rabbi Natan).” The error was probably introduced through Adam Fisher’s Seder Tu biShvat, p.20 (1989)
As quoted in an oral history by Rav Aryeh Levin (1885-1969) in A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, p.107 (Simcha Raz, Feldheim: 1975).

A remarkably similar story first appears in a work published in 1957-58: Likkutei Dibburim, the collection of talks given in Yiddish between 1929 and 1950 by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the previous rebbe of the Lubavitch Hasidim. In his retelling, Rabbi Yosef Yitschok Schneerson (1880-1950) recalls a childhood event when he was about 11 and was walking with his father, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneersohn (1892-1920) in the fields near Bolivke:
5) One day in the summer of 1896, I was strolling with my father in the field in the country resort of Bolivke, near Lubavitch. The crops were almost ripe; the grain and the grass rippled in a gentle breeze.

“Behold G-dliness”, my father declared. “Every movement of each single ear of grain and blade of grass was included in the Primeval Thought of Adam Kadmon, He who watches and gazes until the end of all generations. Divine Providence causes this thought to be realized for the sake of a specific G-dly intent.” As we walked on, we found ourselves in a forest. I continued, proceeding deep in contemplation of what I had just been told concerning Divine Providence, overwhelmed by the gentleness and earnestness of my father’s explanation.

As people often do, I plucked the leaf from a tree that I passed by without taking particular notice, and held it for a while in my hand. As I walked on, engrossed in thought, ever so often I tore off small pieces from the leaf and tossed them to the ground.

My father then said: “The AriZal teaches that…every leaf is a created being with Divine vitality which G-d created with a specific intent and role in the ultimate purpose of creation…

“We were just discussing the subject of Divine Providence and without any thought at all you plucked the leaf, held it in your hand, played with it…tore it up into little pieces, and scattered it in various places.

“How can a person act so light-mindedly in relation to one of G-d’s creations? This leaf is something created by the Almighty for a particular reason. It has a G-d-given vitality, it has a body and it has a life. In what way is the leaf’s ‘I’ smaller than your ‘I’?”… -Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. I, page 177 in English. While a similar observation could have been made by Rav Kook (who elsewhere writes eloquently on nature and human responsibility) it must be considered either likely or possible that Simcha Raz or Rabbi Aryeh Levin misattributed this story to him. Thank you to Rabbi Shmuel Klatzkin for offering these source references. He adds, “As you recall, [Simcha] Raz’s book mentions some beautiful words of encouragement the Rebbe gave to Rabbi Levin.”

Although these stories directly relate to the tradition of Bal Taschit, similar teachings can be found in Talmudic sources. See Midrash Rabbah, Bereishis 10:6,
א”ר סימון אין לך כל עשב ועשב, שאין לו מזל ברקיע שמכה אותו, ואומר לו גדל, הה”ד (איוב לח) הידעת חקות שמים אם תשים משטרו בארץ וגו’, לשון שוטר‏

(Rabbi Simon said: Every single blade of grass has a Mazal [lit. constellation] in the rakia (heavenly firmament) which strikes it and says, ‘Grow!’ This is the meaning of the verse (Job 38:33), ‘Do you know the laws of the heavens, and can you place their control [mishtar] over the earth?’ Mishtar is an expression of shoteir [meaning, an enforcing officer].) — translation, The Rebbetzin’s Husband, accessed 2011-01-19.

Adapted from the tragic story of Honi HaMagel’s death in B.T. Taanith 23a. Gale & Goodman appear to have borrowed a passage straight out of Harlene Winnick Appelman and Jane Sherwin Shapiro’s A Seder for Tu BiShvat [sic]: “A Talmudic story is told about Honi, who saw an old man planting a carob tree. His grandchild was helping him. Honi laughed. ‘Foolish man’, he said”…
This prayer appears in Likutey Tefillot by Reb Nosson of Breslov and is a reworking of a popular teaching by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (Likutey T’filot, I:52, II:11 II:22). An unattributed, slight variation of this translation appears under the heading “Meditation” in Gates of Prayer: The New Union of Prayer, p.376 (CCAR 1975) by Chaim Stern. Here we have followed Goodman and Gale’s translation with Reb Dovid Seidenberg’s clarification that the mode of prayer referred to is that of hitbodedut meditation.
In Gale and Goodman’s Tu biShvat Haggadah, they give special thanks to COEJL, a coalition formed by a broad array of national Jewish organizations, for a grant that helped them produce this Haggadah. They also thank the Koret Synagogue Initiative for their support.

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