Tu BiSh'vat Seder
Join us as we celebrate Tu BiSh’vat—the Jewish new year for the trees! While it may still be cold and grey in New York, growth is happening, the sap is beginning to flow in the trees, and new life will soon be sprouting beneath our feet. In a time when the effects of climate change are increasingly destructive, our tradition gives us an opportunity to bless the beauty of the natural world and to deepen our spiritual connection to the trees and plants that we depend on for so much.
Guided by Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Interns Adam Graubart and Aliza Schwartz, we will partake in the communal Tu BiSh’vat Seder. Through song, kavanot (intentions), and blessings we will bring holiness to our ceremonial foods and drink. Our Seder will take place online only, via zoom.
To participate in the Seder, we invite you to bring:
- White and Red grape juice or wine—enough for four cups!
- Food(s) with an inedible outer covering and edible inside: pistachios, peanuts, pomegranate, bananas or citrus.
- Food(s) with an edible outside but inedible pit inside: dates, olives, apples, nectarines.
- Food(s) that are entirely edible: berries, figs, or grapes.
- Fragrant spices, for smelling.
Whether you have these items or not, we encourage you to join this beautiful ritual.
Tu BiSh’vat Teaching from Cantor Sam Rosen
As we approach Tu BiSh’vat, the “New Year for Trees,” let’s take a moment to reflect on the lessons this unique holiday teaches us today. In the midst of winter, when the world may seem sparse, we are reminded that beneath the surface, life is stirring. In winter, when the branches may be bare, it is underground that the tree establishes a strong foundation, securing its place in the soil.
Observing the rituals of Tu BiSh’vat teaches us that growth is not always visible; it happens quietly and steadily, even when we cannot see the immediate results. Like other parts of the Jewish year, we ritualize our understanding of this reality through food. We pick up a date or an almond and we must acknowledge the silent and difficult work of food production. The planters, farmers, pickers, schleppers, packers and more – their work is not always visible. But without them, we would go hungry. Each word of the HaMotzi blessing corresponds to one finger – ten words, ten fingers. Food – our sustenance – does not just appear, but rather must be cultivated by human hands.
Just as the tree’s roots provide stability, nourishment, and support, our connections with our community can be a source of strength, sustenance, and resilience. Just as trees quietly grow their roots during this seemingly barren time, so too can our connections with each other deepen and flourish through difficult external circumstances.
I leave you with the words of 19th century Moroccan paytan (Hebrew poet) Moshe Haluah; may the words inspire us to cultivate our commitment to each other and the world around us.
יוֹם זֶה מִפִּינוּ אַל יֻשְׁבַּת אֶפְצְחָה בּוֹ שִׁירִים וּרְנָנוֹת
גָּדוֹל הוּא לָנוּ יוֹם ט”וּ בִּשְׁבָט רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה לָאִילָנוֹת
This day shall never cease from our lips.
I will bring forth songs and exultations.
How great for us is Tu BiSh’vat, New Year of the Trees.
מִפֵּרוֹת הָאָרֶץ אֶבְחָרָה לְבָרֵךְ עֲלֵיהֶם בְּמוֹרָא
לְהַצִּילָם הָאֵל מִצָּרָה וְגַם מִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנוּת
From the fruits of the earth I shall choose, to bless them in awe.
For God shall redeem them from trouble and all suffering.
Interested in doing more?
Our partners at T’ruah will plant two trees for justice when you donate for Tu BiSh’vat, one in a sustainable urban agriculture project in West Jerusalem and one in a Palestinian village in the West Bank, giving us the opportunity to partner in deepening the roots of justice for Israelis and Palestinians.