Monday, February 6, 2012

Tu’bShevat – The Holiday of Redemption

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The Seven Fruits of Israel
Your own Tu B'Shevat Seder Kit!
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My Soul Connection: Eretz Israel
Resloving the Ambiguity at the Heart of Bal Tashchit    And more....

Tu’bShevat – The Holiday of Redemption

Tu’bShvat – An Occasion to Connect with the Land of Israel
TubShvat is a celebration of the relationship between Hashem and His people as expressed by the blessings bestowed on the Holy Land. If you seek to heighten the spirituality of your life by deepening your bonds with Eretz Yisrael, this holiday assumes major importance. When we bless and enjoy the fruits during the Tu’bShvat Seder, keep in mind that the fruits of the Land of Israel herald the redemption as we learn from the prophets. “But you, mountains of Israel shall give forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people, Israel; for soon they will come.” (Ezekiel 36:8). Based on this verse, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) reveals that there is no more revealed sign of the end of days, as when the land of Israel will produce fruits in abundance.

Between Tu’bShvat and Passover
The Passover Seder celebrates the past redemption of the Jewish People from Egypt and anticipates our future redemption and return to the Land of Israel. The Tu’bShvat Seder celebrates our yearning to return to the land of Israel which is the entryway to the Garden of Eden, and anticipates the redemption of all humanity when we will eat – this time – fruit from the Tree of Life.

Whereas keeping the Passover Seder is halacha, (Jewish obligation), the Tu’bShvat Seder is not obligatory but rather a minhag (custom). Halachic sources mention that it is a custom to enjoy an abundance of different fruits on Tu’bShvat. (Mishna Berura Siman 131, Seif 31, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 139). In the past few decades, making a fruit Seder has become widespread among Jews across the world. Since the order and the contents of the Seder do not follow specific Jewish law, there is much room for flexibility and creativity for each of you to conduct the Seder in your own way.

The Origin of the Tu’bShvat Seder
The Tu’bShvat Seder somewhat similar to the Seder for Passover, was compiled by the students of the Holy Arizal, Rabbi Isaac Luria in the 16th century, Tzefat. It involves appreciating the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel. The Tu’bShvat Seder is based primarily on the Kabbalistic work, “Chemdat haYamim,” later published separately under the title “Pri Etz Hadar”.

The Correspondence of the Fruits to the Three Worlds according to Kabbalah
The fruits of the Tu’bShvat Seder are divided into four groups corresponding to The Four Worlds that link the upper and lower reality. Each sequence of fruit culminates with a cup of wine. As on Passover, the wine is poured before the text is read and drunk afterwards. White wine symbolizes the refined ethereal upper world, whereas red wine represents our coarse material lower world of action. During the Tu’bShvat Seder we spiral downward from the highest world of Emanation beyond any physical manifestation, through the world of Creation and Formation, ultimately landing in our physical world of Action.

1. There are no fruits that correspond to the World of Emanation, which is beyond physical manifestation due to its total spirituality. However, for this category, we have chosen the seven kinds of fruits by which the Land of Israel is praised, since these fruits take precedence according to the laws of blessings as will be explained.

2. Wholly edible fruits correspond to the World of Creation.

3. Fruits that are wholly edible except for their pits correspond to the World of Formation.

4. Fruits that have wholly inedible shells correspond to the World of Action.

Practical Guidelines for Conducting a Tu’bShvat Seder
Before each fruit is eaten a portion of the Bible or Oral law is learned. If possible try to find thirty kinds of fruit corresponding to The Ten Sefirot in each of the three lower worlds. If it is impossible to get hold of thirty species, try to eat at least twelve.

NOTE. A fruit that is lacking may have another substituted for it, preferably from the same category.

Laws and Order of Blessings
It is our G-d given opportunity to rectify and unify the upper forces and worlds through the power of blessings and prayer. The blessings on mitzvot and pleasures draw down celestial abundance, whereas, blessings in prayer are meant to rectify the worlds themselves, by elevating them and connecting each one with the world above it. This way they receive the Holy influence of the upper light as well as draw down and increase the Holiness of the light within them. (Based on Rabbi Chaim M’Volozyn, Nefesh Hachaim 2:3-4 and 14).

Whenever blessing our food, the blessing of the products of wheat precedes the rest of the blessings. Therefore we begin the Seder by blessing Borei Minei Mezonot on the wheat cracker or cake. When blessing on wheat, have in mind to include all other grains as well.

The first blessing recited on the fruits of the tree includes all other fruits on the table. The Torah mentions seven kinds of fruits in praise of the Land of Israel. (Deuteronomy 8:8). These seven kinds are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. When we eat different kinds of fruits, the seven special kinds should precede all other fruits. (Mishna Berura Siman 168). The order of blessing within these seven kinds is according to their proximity to the word “Land” in the Bible verse. (Mishna Berura Siman 210). Consequently we bless Bore Peri Haetz on the olive and have in mind to include with this blessing all the other fruits of the tree throughout the Seder. Whenever you make a blessing hold the fruit in your right hand!

New Fruits from the Land
Try to include in the Tu’bShvat Seder as many fruits as possible grown in the Land of Israel, in order to connect yourself to the Holy Land on this day. (Make sure the fruits have been grown, and tithed according to the Laws of the Land). It is also recommended to include a fruit never eaten yet this year, in order to recite the special blessing Shehecheyanu for eating a new fruit for the first time in the season. After the Seder is completed, make sure to recite the after-blessings for cake, wine, and fruit.

Tikkun (Rectifivation) via Eating
During the Tu’bShvat Seder we have the opportunity to rectify eating from the Tree of Knowledge – the root of all sin and eating disorders. When the sin of the Tree of Knowledge corrupted the world, sparks of holiness fell into their husks, and the pure became combined with the impure. Today, every fruit includes a part of both the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, which is its antidote. Words of Torah, blessings and proper intentions enable us to raise the fallen sparks within the food and bring them back to their source in the Garden of Eden. Contemplating the marvel of the gift of Divine fruits can teach us many lessons about G-d, life and ourselves. Let us eat like the righteous and take each bite from the Tree of Life!

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