Tu B' Shevat literally means the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, the full moon moment that this holiday is observed. Although the holiday takes place in the winter, it teaches that underground, the sap is flowing and preparing for the renewal of nature that is to come in the spring. Over time, Tu B' Shevat has had many layers. Originally, it was one of the 4 'New Years' mentioned in the Mishnah, in this case the time used to count the trees as a full year older for purposes of tithing. The 16th Century Jewish mystics used Tu B' Shevat to celebrate not only the trees of nature but also the kabbalistic tree imagery called the Sephirot that depicts God's qualities. It was at this time that the Tu B' Shevat seder was developed, a way to literally taste the blessings of the trees. The nascent State of Israel reframed the holiday as a kind of Jewish Arbor Day complete with ceremonial tree plantings. Finally, the emergence of Earth Day and ecological consciousness called contemporary Jews to emphasize the environmental aspects of the "New Year For The Trees."
We hope you will join our congregational seder on Friday, January 29th at 6pm. There will be a hagaddah for you to download and follow along. In order to participate at home, you will want to purchase one bottle of purple grape juice and one bottle of white grape juice. Make sure you have a clear cup so you can see the color of the juice from the outside. As we progress through the seder, you will be mixing the white and purple juices in varying proportions. In addition, you will want to have a plate with a variety of fruits from the trees. At least one of the fruits should be inedible on the outside but edible on the inside. Examples: Pomegranates, walnuts, bananas, oranges, coconuts, almonds, pistachios. At least one of the fruits should be edible on the outside but have an inedible pit or core inside. Examples: Dates, cherries, apples, peaches, apricots, plums, olives. At least one of the fruits should be totally edible with nothing to peel away or avoid. Examples: Figs, strawberrys, grapes (though the latter two grow on vines they are still customary on Tu B' Shevat. We will drink the juice and eat the fruits in a certain order together in the manner that is explained in the hagaddah.
Finally, at CRC, we like to close the seder with chocolate (which, through the cocoa bean, comes from trees!), so you can certainly add some to your seder plate. We look forward to observing Tu B' Shevat with you!