סדר ט״וּ בִּשְׁבָט | The Trees are Davvening: A Tu biShvat Haggadah Celebrating our Kinship with the Trees and the Earth, by Barak Gale and Ami Goodman (1991, unabridged)

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THE TREES ARE DAVENING: A Tu biShvat Haggadah Celebrating Our Kinship with the Trees and the Earth
Developed by:
Dr. Barak Gale, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco
Dr. Ami Goodman, Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco

Hebrew English

אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי.‏
 
 
 
 
 
וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי.‏
 
 
 
 
 
וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי.‏
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
 
The ecological crisis threatens
our health,
our children’s future,
 
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.
 
If not now, WHEN?
 
Hillel the Elder, Pirkei Avot 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.”[1]Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13
Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7.13

INTRODUCTION

Tu biShvat, the New Year for the trees, was designated, following debate in the Talmud, as the time of renewal of budding in the trees. The early winter rains were mostly over, the sap in the trees had risen, and the period of budding was just beginning. The origin of Tu biShvat in the Torah was a time for renewal of our commitment to God and to share the yield of the land with the poor. "Every year, you shall set aside a tenth part of the yield, so that you may learn to revere your God forever." (Deuteronomy 14.22-23) Today we celebrate Tu biShvat also for renewal of our commitment to serve and protect the trees, and all of God’s creation. The evolution of this holiday has an interesting history.

After the exile of the Jews from Israel, Tu biShvat became a day on which to commemorate our connection to Eretz Israel. During much of Jewish history, the only observance of this day was the practice of eating fruit associated with the land of Israel. A tradition based on Deuteronomy 8:8 holds that there are five fruits and two grains associated with it as a "land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and [date] honey." Almonds were also given a prominent place in Tu biShvat meals since the almond trees were believed to be the first of all trees in Israel to blossom. Carob or St John’s bread – was the most popular fruit to use, since it could survive the long trip from Israel to Jewish communities in Europe and North Africa.

The medieval mystical Kabbalists carried Tu biShvat a step further. For them, trees were a symbol of humans, as it says: "For a human is like a tree of the field" (Deut. 20:19). In line with their general concern with Tikun Olam -spiritually repairing the world – the Kabbalists regarded eating a variety of fruits on Tu biShvat as a way of improving our spiritual selves. They believed that the ritual consumption of the fruits and the nuts, if done with the proper intention (kavanah), would cause the sparks of holy light hidden in the fruit to be liberated from their shells and rise up the heavenly ladder to return to their divine source, thereby contributing to the renewal of life for the coming year. The Torah is referred to as a "tree of life to them that hold fast to it." The Kabbalists pictured their philosophical construct of the Sephirot – the ten mystical emanations of the divinity – in the form of a heavenly tree, or ladder.

For the Kabbalists, trees were symbolic also of the tree – the Tree of Life, which carries divine goodness and blessing into the world. To encourage this flow and effect Tikun Olam, the Kabbalists of Ts’fat (16th century) created a Tu biShvat seder loosely modeled after the Pesach seder.

In the twentieth century, with the growth of Zionism and the founding of the State of Israel, the association of Tu biShvat with the land of Israel has gained even more significance. In Israel, thousands of children plant trees. They play a vital role in the ecological healing of the land that was degraded after centuries of Ottoman rule. In the Diaspora, we give money to the Jewish National Fund for tree planting in Israel. It is also customary to collect money for Ma’ot Peirot – tz’daka for those in need.

In recent decades, the stakes have become much higher. Tu biShvat calls upon us to cry out against the enormity of destruction and degradation being inflicted upon God’s world. This degradation includes depletion of our protective ozone layer, 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 animals, 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.

TEHILLIM – PSALMS OF ASCENT
On Tu biShvat it is traditional to read from the fifteen Psalms of Ascent (Shire Hama’alot) which include Psalms 120-134. These were recited as the Levites ascended the fifteen steps to the temple. The fifteen Psalms also remind us of the date of the festival – the fifteenth of Sh’vat – Tu biShvat.

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

Blessings (B’rachot):

In order to appreciate properly the special in the ‘ordinary’ around us, Judaism instructs that we reflect on almost every action we take. It is taught that a person who eats something without first saying a blessing is stealing sacred property (B’rachot 35a)

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֶלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
עֹשֶֹה מַעֲשֵֹה בְרֵאשִׁית:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Creator of the universe,
who continually does the work of creation.

Baruch ata,
Adonai Eloheinu,
melech ha-olam,
o-seh ma-asei v’rei-sheet.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֶלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
שֶכָּכָה לוֹ בָּעוֹלָמוֹ:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Creator of the universe,
whose world is filled with beauty.

Baruch ata,
Adonai Eloheinu,
melech ha-olam,
she-kacha lo b’olamo.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
שֶׁלֹּא חִסֵּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם,
וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיוֹת טוֹבוֹת
וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת,
לֵהָנוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם׃
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Creator of the universe,
Your world lacks nothing needful;
You have fashioned godly creatures
and lovely trees
that enchant the heart

Baruch ata,
Adonai Eloheinu,
melech ha-olam,
shelo chisar ba-olam davar
u-varavo b’ri-ot tovot
v’ilanot tovim
l’hanot bahem b’nei adam

EILI EILI

Oh Lord, my God, I pray that
these never end: the sand
and the sea. The rush of the 
waters, the crash of the
heavens, the prayer of the heart

Eili Eili shelo yigameir
l’olam, Hachol vehayam
Rishrush shel hamayim,
B’rak hashamayim, T’filat
ha-adam

STRUCTURE OF THE SEDER

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), B’riah (creation), and Atzilut (emanation).

THE FIRST WORLD:
OLAM HA-ASSIYAH – THE WORLD OF ACTION

Assiyah – the first world, is the world of action. It is the world in which we assemble and shape artifacts without changing the form of God’s raw material. It is the physical world represented by earth and the season of Winter. In the world of Assiyah, we drink white wine and eat fruits with hard outer shells and soft insides.

The white wine symbolizes the sleep that descends upon nature when the sun’s rays begin to weaken. In winter the earth is sometimes barren, covered with snow. In winter we layer ourselves in clothing, blanketing ourselves from the cold just as the earth covered in snow is insulated. The fruit also symbolizes the winter season with its protected outside. Removing the hard shells exposes a fleshy vulnerable inside. The shell which conceals also protects. In the world of work, of everyday activity, the spiritual requires protection and nurturing. Special effort is necessary to protect it from indifference, from being forgotten, from unkind influences.

We crack the shells of the nuts and release the divine sparks for Tikun Olam, healing of the world. We crack the shells of our own preoccupations and our own pains.

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……."

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

May it be your will, Hashem our God, that by virtue of our blessing and eating these fruits we shall enjoy the hidden heavenly roots from which they draw the divine flow of fruiting and blessing. Once again, abundantly fill them with Your glorious flow, nourish and ripen them for an entire year of blessing, good life, and peace. Amen.

B’RACHOT/ BLESSINGS:

As we eat the fruit of Assiyah, the physical world of action, may we be blessed with the courage to reveal ourselves, to be vulnerable, to grow, and to repair and help heal.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הָעֵץ:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
who creates the fruit of the tree.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
borei p’ri ha-etz


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ
וְקִיְמָנוּ
וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶּה:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
for giving us life,
for sustaining us
and for enabling us to reach this season.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
she-he-cheyanu
ve-kiyemanu
ve-higi-anu laz’man ha-zeh

As we drink the first cup of wine, a white wine, may we feel the sleep of the winter as it refuels our body and soul and prepares us for the lengthening of the days, and the rebirth of nature.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
who creates the fruit of the vine.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
borei p’ri hagafen.

Almonds and other nuts

The almond tree (Sh’keidiyah) has special significance for Tu biShvat. It is the first of the fruit trees to blossom each year in Israel. The word for almond in Hebrew also means to "watch". It is the subject of one of Jeremiah’s prophecies: "The word of the Lord came to me, "What do you see, Jeremiah?’ I replied ‘I see a branch of an almond (shakeid) tree. The Lord said to me, ‘You have seen right for I am watchful (shokeid) to bring my word to pass." (Jer. 1:11) This reminds us that we must be watchful and vigilant to God’s commandment to serve and protect all creation.

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

The branch and the tree

An Israelite in her relationship to the synagogue may be 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.


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

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) 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.

Reb Naḥman of Bratslav said: If a person kills a tree before its time, it is like having murdered a soul.

Pomegranates – Rimonim

In the Song of Songs (Shir haShirim) we read: "Come my beloved, … let us see…if the pomegranates are in bloom." The Rabbis comment: "These are the children who are busy learning the Torah; they sit in rows like pomegranate seeds." Thus the gleaming red pomegranate seeds remind us that we, too, must be attentive to study Torah, and learn how we must care for our world.

SONG OF SONGS: EL GINAT EGOZ

Walking through the walnut orchard
Looking for the signs of spring,
The pomegrantes – have they flowered?
The grapevines – are they blossoming?

El ginat egoz yarad’ti,
Lirot b’ibei hanachal,
Lirot hafarcha hagefen,
Heineitzu harimonim.

SONG OF SONGS: ET DODIM

This is the time for love,
my bride, come unto my garden.
The grapevine is in flower,
and the pomegrante is budding.

Et dodim hala, bo-i
legani
Parcha hagefen,
heineitzu rimonim

Children are the crowns of the Torah, adorning it just as silver rimmonim, pomegranates, adorn the top of the Torah Scroll. (Song of Songs Rabba 6:11)

Etrog (Oranges may be substituted.)

The etrog is unique. The blossom (Pitom) end does not fall off after pollination as with other fruit. For this reason the etrog became a symbol of fertility. It is customary to preserve it with cloves and save it from Sukkot until Tu biShvat or make preserves of it after Sukkot to be eaten on Tu biShvat.

"What is this fruit of the tree of loveliness that its fruit is beauty and itself is beauty? It is the etrog. Could it not be the pomegranate? No, for though its fruit be lovely, not so the tree. Could it be the carob? No, for though the tree be lovely, not so the fruit. But where the fruit and tree alike are beauty – that is the etrog alone. (Jerusalem Talmud).

Just as the etrog provides both nourishment and fragrance, so in Israel there are people who provide both wisdom and perform good deeds. (Vayikra Rabba 30.12)

Environmental Conduct In the World of Assiyah – Action

"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 TASHḤIT – THE NEEDLESS DESTRUCTION OF ANYTHING IS WRONG.

"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…" S.R. Hirsh, 19th century.

The human capacity to destroy is tremendous, so we must be very careful in all of our actions. The Jewish tradition provides us with a second principle, Yishuv Ha’aretz, the settling of the land, or in modern terms, sustainable development. This requires careful planning and consideration in the building of our social life, so that we may achieve a just, productive, healthy and sustainable society. How do we do this? By way of the 3 pillars upon which the world stands (Pirkei Avot):

The world stands on
three things: on Torah,
on worship, and on acts
of loving kindness.

Al sh’losha d’varim (2x)
Al shlosha, shlosha d’varim
Ha-olam (2x) omeid
Al haTorah (2x), v’al ha’avodah
V’al g’milut chasadim

Torah (Law, learning):

We study B’reisheet and
learn the relationship
between humanity and
all of creation. We study
other biblical and
rabbinic texts that speak
to our responsibility. And
we are commanded to study
the natural world itself.

Ask now the beasts,
and they shall teach
you. And the birds of
the sky, and they
shall tell you. Or
speak to the Earth
and it will tach you.
And the fish of the
sea will tell you
stories

Avodah (Work, service)

We pray and worship, as
we do tonight, with
kavanah

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 Abraham ben Maimonides)

G’milut Chasadim (Acts of loving kindness):

We take action
in our private and congregational
lives, to minimize consumption of
trees and other resources.

REDUCE photocopies, junk
mail, disposable plates, cups, bags.

RE-USE blank sides of scrap
paper, paper and plastic grocery
bags

RECYCLE paper, aluminum,
glass, and some plastics, and
buy recycled products

RESTORE woodlands, wetlands.
Plant trees

RESPOND to our elected
representatives, our Congress,
that is determined to dismantle
25 years of bipartisan
environmental protection,
protection that has been a model
for all the nations.

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 …

Ten Acts prohibited by Jewish law and ten plagues of the modern world:

    Needless destruction.
    Air pollution.
    Water pollution.
    Noise pollution.
    Destruction of species.
    Release of dangerous substances.
    Damage from cattle.
    Disregard for God’s ownership of the world.
    Failure to protest or prevent the wrongdoings of our household.
    Disregard for future generations.

The Jewish tradition teaches us that our relations with all things in the world of action can lead us to higher spiritual levels. We realize wasting, pollution, and not actively caring for the environment lead to very ill consequences. By internalizing and acting on the Jewish values of chesed (caring), tzedakah (righteousness), rachamim (compassion), and kavanah (proper intention) we can create and sustain a world in harmony with Being. Through action, and also through study of the Torah – which is likened to water – we can enter the World of Formation.

THE SECOND WORLD:
OLAM HA’YETZIRAH – THE WORLD OF FORMATION

Joyfully shall you draw
upon the fouintains of
deliverance.

U-shavtem mayim
b’sason mi-my-nei
ha-y’shu-a.

Yetzirah, the second world, the most vulnerable, is the world of Formation. It is the world in which we cause a transformation of raw materials, such as making bricks from clay. We acknowledge God as creator not only of the physical world but also of our ability to be creative, our capacity to feel, speak, and sing. It is the emotional world represented by water and the season of Spring. In the world of Yetzirah, we drink white wine with a dash of red and eat fruits with soft outsides and hard inner cores.

The white wine with a dash of red symbolizes the gradual deepening of color which parallels the reawakening of colors in nature as the sun brings them back to life. In spring the sun’s rays begin to thaw the frozen earth and the first flowers appear on the hillsides. In the full warmth of spring we go outdoors to be with nature. No longer coating ourselves in protective attire, we expose our soft bodies to the sun. We eat fruit containing pits and we are reminded that, despite the wondrous expressions of our spirit, we are still tied to the hard pit of our ego. We are still concealed, deep inside, protecting our divine sparks even from within.

Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, Rabbi Eleazar, Rabbi Abba, and Rabbi Yose were sitting one day beneath some trees on the plain by the Sea of Ginnosar. Rabbi Simeon said "The shade spread over us by these trees is so pleasant! We must crown this place with words of Torah!" (Zohar)

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)

Choose at least five from among the following fruits: olives, dates, cherries, hackberries, jujubes, persimmons, apricots, peaches, loquats and plums.

As we eat the fruit of Y’tzirah, the emotional world of Formation, may our hearts be open to the feelings and needs of ourselves and others, allowing the warmth of our care through the world.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הָעֵץ:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
who creates the fruit of the tree.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
borei p’ri ha-eitz

As we drink the second cup of wine, white with a dash of red, may we, like the flowers, blossom into our full potential.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
who creates the fruit of the vine.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
borei p’ri hagafen.

SONG OF SONGS

Come with me, my love,
come away
The winter is past.
The rains are over and gone.

KUMI LACH

Kumi lach (2x) rayati
yafati, kumi lach.
Ki Heinei hastav, hinei
hastav avar
Hageshem chalaf,
ha-lach lo.

Olives – Zeitim and hope

Environmental threats are overwhelming. Despite the tremendous importance of ancient forests, as home to two-thirds of the Earth’s species, and to regulating our climate and atmosphere, human beings have destroyed over three-fourths of the ancient forests of the world. This has resulted in the most extensive extinction of species since the Ice Age.

The olive tree is a sign of hope that, despite the enormity of destruction, life can be restored. When the great flood began to subside, Noah sent out a dove. "The dove came back to him toward evening, and there in its bill was a leaf it had picked from an olive tree." (Genesis 8:11)

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 Tashḥit – to not waste.
The date is also cause for joy. When Moses heard that the spies had returned, the spies were requested to give their report. They said, "We came unto the land to which you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey." This was not an exaggeration for honey flowed from the date palm trees under which the goats grazed, out of whose udders poured milk, so that both milk and honey moistened the ground. (Sotah 35a)


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

Eretz zavat
chalav ud’vash

TZADIK KATAMAR

The righteous shall
flourish like the
palm tree; they will
grow like a cedar in
Lebanon

Tzadik katamar yifrach yifrach
Tzadik katamar yifrach
K’erez bal’vanon yisgeh
K’erev bal’vanon yisgeh
yisgeh

The Formation of Environmental Ethics

In the World of Formation in which we are most vulnerable, we might wonder what miniscule difference can we as individuals or even as congregations, make in the vast scheme of things. Maimonides teaches us that we should consider the entire world as if it were exactly balanced between acts of righteousness and of evil. The very next action we take, therefore, can save or condemn the world.

Again, a tree serves as a metaphor – the tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. It is through our interaction with this tree that we come to be aware of the implications of our actions – of the positivity and negativity of our acts irrespective of the benefit to us. We must form principles on which to base our actions – ethics of behavior. How can we structure our lives to create the greatest harmony between people, between people and the environment, and between people and the Creator of all?

THE THIRD WORLD:
OLAM HAB’RIYAH – THE WORLD OF CREATION

"Fill the Earth and master it", God commands humanity in the first account of the Creation of the world. The account also emphasizes that the created world, and all that fill it – the land and the seas, the trees and grass, the sun, moon, and stars, fish and birds, creeping things and land animals – are good. God also blesses the birds and the fish to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:22). We are given a unique role, and yet we are also part of the entire world, all of which God said was "good".

"The Eternal formed a human from the dust of the Earth. God blew into its nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being…The Eternal took and placed the human being in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate it and to protect it." (Genesis 2:7,2:15) We are instructed to cultivate for our human needs, but to do it in a manner that does not deplete and degrade Creation, but rather allows all life to flourish.

B’riyah, the third world, is the world of Creation. It is the world of thoughts represented by air and the season of summer. In the world of B’riyah, 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.

As human beings, struggling to survive in a world which often seems antagonistic to our integrity, we can develop hard shells to protect our inner core, like the fruit of the first world. Although we survive as individuals within our shells, we remain partly hidden and cut off from each other, and touching one another takes the patient effort of separating the protective layer from the inner core while keeping the core intact. We can also be more like the fruit of the second world, available up to a point, but witholding our innermost part, perhaps needing a secret toughness to keep from collapsing under the pressure.

But in our most precious relationships, we are most like the fruit that are soft throughout and that can be taken whole, available to each other in every aspect and facet of our personalities and strong in a way which does not cut any part of us off from ourselves or from each other. 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.

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. (Wisdom of the Jewish Mystics)

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

BLESSINGS

As we eat the fruit of B’riyah, the world of thoughts and creation, may our thoughts and actions be integrated. May we create harmony in our lives and in the world.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הָעֵץ:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
who creates the fruit of the tree.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
borei p’ri ha-eitz

As we drink the third cup of wine, red with a dash of white, may we cherish the warmth of the season and the abundance of our harvesting.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
who creates the fruit of the vine.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
borei p’ri hagafen.

FIG – T’einah

The fig is mentioned in the Bible sixteen times together with the vine as the most important fruit of Eretz Israel. The fig motif illustrates an era of peace and security in the past, and an ideal vision for the future.

Fig Tree and Torah

The rabbis asked, "Why were the words of Torah compared to the fig tree?" They answered, "Since all the figs do not ripen at the same time, the more one searches the tree, the more figs one finds in it." So it is with the words of the Torah: the more we study them, the more delightful morcels we find.

They shall sit, everyone
under their grapevine or
fig tree with no one to
disturb them. (Micah 4:4)

Ve-yashvu ish tachat
gafno; ve-tachat t’einato,
v’ein ma-charid.

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, who saw an old man planting a carob tree. His grandchild was helping him. Honi laughed. "Foolish man", he said, "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."

THE FOURTH WORLD:
OLAM HA’ATZILUT – THE WORLD OF EMANATION

Who is like you among the heavenly
powers, Adonai!

Who is like you, mighty in holiness,
too awesome for praise,
doing wonders!

Mi chamocha ba-elim
Adonai? Mi Kamocha,
ne-edar bakodesh,
Nora t’hilot, oseh feleh?

Atzilut, the fourth world, is the world of Emanation. It is the purely spiritual world represented by fire. In the Autumn world of Atzilut, 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.

As we have passed through each world, we have changed with each season. We began by protecting our soft inner self and slowly peeled our hard outer layer. Within that soft layer another hardness was found, protected by the softness which surrounded it. We came to a place where there was no distinction between the protected and the protective.

In the world of Atzilut, 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.

A Prayer for Hitbodedut by Reb Nosson[2]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.

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 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!

-Rebbe Naḥman of Bratslav

As we drink the fourth cup of pure red wine, may we become strong, like healthy trees, with solid roots in the ground and with our arms open to the love that is all around us.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה
יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ
מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הַגָּפֶן:‏
We praise You,
Adonai our God,
Ruler of the universe
who creates the fruit of the vine.

Baruch ata
Adonai Eloheinu
melech ha-olam,
borei p’ri hagafen.

May it be Your will, O God of our mothers and fathers, that through our eating of the fruits which we have blessed, that the trees will be filled with the glory of their ability to renew themselves for new blossoming and growth, from the beginning of the year to its end, so that our lives too will be renewed and filled with goodness, blessings, and peace.

L’Shana tova uv’racha p’ri ut’nuvah

May the year be fruitful and blessed!

L’shana haba’a bi-Y’rushalayim hab’nuya

Next year in Jerusalem rebuilt!

May the Jerusalem of our souls be rekindled

as we open our hearts to the world,
and take good care of God’s world.


Special thanks to The Coalition on the Environment & Jewish Life, a coalition formed by a broad array of national Jewish organizations, for their grant and for their inspiring work. Thanks also to the Koret Synagogue Initiative for their support.

This Tu biShvat Haggadah was designed by Barak Gale and Ami Goodman, with the following sources:

    Adam Fisher. Seder Tu biShvat -The Festival of Trees. New york: Central Conference of American Rabbis Press, 1989.

    Harlene Appelman and Jane Shapiro. A Seder for Tu biShvat. Rockville: Kar-Ben Copies, 1984.

    Claire Sherman. Tikun Tu biShvat – A Seder for Tu biShvat, 1987.

    J. Sokolow and Santa Cruz Hillel students. The Trees New Year – A Tu biShvat Seder

    Michael Strassfeld. The Jewish Holidays – A Guide and Commentary. New York: Harper and Row, 1985.

    Arthur Waskow. Seasons of Our Joy. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

    Philip Jordan, et al. Tikun Tu biShvat. Jerusalem, Shevat 5739 (1981).

    Shomrei Adamah. A Garden of Choice Fruit. 1991.

    The Coalition on the Environment & Jewish Life. To Till and To Tend and other COEJL resource material.

    Stephen Arno and Jane Gyer, Discovering Sierra Trees. 1973.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13
2. 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.

Comments, Corrections, and Queries


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