I'm not presently planning to hold or attend one, but I have participated and enjoyed Tu B'Shevat seders in the past. But it seems that whenever we've attended one, I end up running around trying to find a store with fresh carob in the pod for it. We ate fresh carob from pods that had fallen off trees and were simply lying on the ground when we were in Israel this summer. There are also carob chips that can be used, but they are hard to find in packages with a hechsher and some of the minyan members keep very strict levels of kashrut in their homes.
I like the use of different mixtures of white and red wine or grape juice in some Tu B'Shevat seders. Do you have anything special that you do for your Tu B'Shevat seder?
Our shul has a lovely Tu B'Shevat seder each year for the religious school students and their families from both our congregation and the local Reform temple. It's fun to try to get the kids to sample some of the more "exotic" foods!
You can get carob bars in most health food sections at the grocery store - some have hechsher - it depends on how strict you are being, I suppose. If we tried to be super strict about which hechshers we'd use, out here we would likely starve to death! I just read a lot of labels and buy with a hechsher when there's a choice - sometimes there isn't. But in this community, the mere fact that I know what a hechsher IS, sometimes makes me count as 'super orthodox' which is pretty funny when you think about it. I generally just give people the benefit of the doubt when eating somewhere else, and try not to ask too many questions, and avoid anything that looks truly questionable (like chicken noodle soup - with noodles - during Pesach).
We actually have two or three different versions of a 'seder', and they don't all call for the same food items. We usually go with one that calls for certain kinds of fruits and nuts, but doesn't specify exactly which fruits and nuts to use. Like 'fruit with inedible rinds' and 'fruits that can be entirely eaten'. That sort of thing.
OK - since this is the 'next holiday' (except shabbat of course) coming up, how about we talk about it a little bit?
For those who are 'new', Tu B'Shevat means 'the fifteenth day of Shevat' and it falls in the very early spring. And ALL it is, is 'the New Year for Trees': that is, the fiscal year, so to speak, for calculating the year for tree fruit production for the purpose of tithing to the Temple. In the Torah, we are instructed to let a tree produce fruit for three years before using it (and therefore, tithing (before, basically, considering the produce to be 'profitable' for the tree's owner)).
Among many orthodox/hasidic groups, there is a charming custom of a special ceremony for little boys at age three, when they get their very first haircut. This is because humans are compared to young trees.
At any rate, after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, of course this fell into disuse. But in the period of the mystical 'revival' in the 1500's (more or less), and again in the 1960's when environmentalists got popular (that's my take, anyway), the holiday began to be observed - it is/was seen as a kind of mystical connection to the Land of Israel, and also as a sort of 'green' holiday, celebrating the earth's bounty and renewal of spring and so on.
there are some good reading resources for this, like Arthur Waskow's Seasons of our Joy, and Michael Strassfeld's The Jewish Holidays.
We talk about a 'seder' for Tu B'Shevat but there's no single 'seder', but several types - however, the basic observance is to try to find the seven products of the Land of Israel - wheat, barley, olives, dates, grapes and so on, plus wine (usually four types, from white to deep red) and build a ceremony around these, representing fours (like the Passover seder): four seasons, four types of fruit, four kinds of wine -
Sometimes people look for four different kinds of fruits to use, like fruits with inedible peelings, fruits with inedible seeds, fruits entirely edible - there are all kinds of ways to work with the basic idea (tree products, Land of Israel, taking care of the earth, the whole 'tree' thing) to develop a meaningful ceremony. It should be meaningful to the group, as well as adhere to some of the traditional meanings of the holiday itself - springtime, renewal, the connection to the Land of Israel.
We are moving our observance to the weekend (Sunday) so that more people can attend. It actually falls on a Thursday this year I believe (January 20th).
Good online sources: www.myjewishlearning.com and probably the Chabad site - you can usually find lots of interesting readings on holidays there.
A Tu B'Shvat booklet: www.interfaithfamily.com/files/pdf/Tubishvat_1.pdf "This booklet tells the historical roots of Tu Bishvat and Judaism's long-standing sacred connection to trees. You will also find suggestions for activities for young children and ideas for hosting a Tu Bishvat seder."
Here's another good site for Tu B'Shvat info and a really beautiful seder and sourcebook. You have to register to get access to that, but it's free and Hazon is a very good and legitimate organization so you shouldn't have to worry about giving them information. tubshvat.hazon.org/
I wasn't even planning to do a Tu B'Shevat seder, but then I was inspired by the Hazon haggadah. Wednesday night isn't good: my daughter is in the middle of high school final exam week and my son usually goes to Boy Scout meetings on Wednesday nights. So I'm shifting postponing the seder and doing it as a Shabbat meal. I'm not sure whether it will be Friday night dinner or Saturday lunch because we have a friend in town and so we're giving her the option of which meal works best for her.
Judith is a college friend who now lives in L.A. but is in town in order to move her mother who has Alzheimer's to a nursing home. Her sister is flying in from Switzerland tonight, so we'll host her for the seder too. Judith read Torah for my daughter's bat mitzvah and her sister once did a beautiful Rosh Hashanah Torah reading when she was in town to visit her mother and came to our minyan for Rosh Hashanah services. I'll always remember that because my minyan had recently lost a wonderful founding member to breast cancer, and when another minyan member began to leyn with the special trope, tears came to my eyes when I realized that it had usually been read by the member we had lost. Judith's sister used a slightly different trope so it didn't cause painful memories.
Sounds good - I hope I at least remember to light candles tonight! We are holding the actual seder on SUNDAY afternoon because that's when the group has mutual time to get together. It's hard when the holidays fall mid-week.
For Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur and the first couple of days of Passover, I take vacation days.
Occasionally that irritates me a bit - that I have to use my vacation time for these major religious holidays, while my coworkers get Christmas and Easter off, no issues. Oh well, that's the way it is.
By the way, Behrman House has a nice little 'Jewish Home Holiday Companion' booklet, not expensive, that is great for handing out to teachers and suchlike, to explain the holidays and why your kid will be out of school 'next Tuesday' or something like that!
I'm lucky that as an academic I basically get to take off when I need or want to, within reason. So I take off all the holidays including Yom Tov Sheni, except that I don't often off for Shmini Atzeret or the last one or two days of Pesach. I do take a lot of holidays off: RH=2, YK=1, Sukkot=2, Simchat Torah=1, Pesach= 2-3, Shavuot=2. My kids are in public school and miss most of those days too (maybe 1 or 2 fewer), although since we live in a very Jewish area, the first day RH and YK are always school holidays. In fact our elementary school district used to give TWO days for RH and used to make spring break coincide with Pesach. Several years ago, due I assume to complaints from Christian parents, the district stopped giving a holiday for RH2, spring break became decoupled from Pesach, and Good Friday was added as a school holiday.
The teachers have mostly been understanding except for a couple years ago when some of my daughter's high school teachers gave extra homework over YK because they figured the kids had extra time since they had no school that day. My daughter ate a fast break fast after YK and then worked as hard as she could up to midnight. I suggested she work on the classes in which she thought the teacher would be least sympathetic. The next day, she went to each teacher and explained how she had spent the whole holiday fasting and going to about 8 hours of services and was forbidden from doing school work during until well after sundown the night before. She told me she made sure to be a bit dramatic in her description The teachers were apologetic and gave her extra time to complete the work. There are a number of Orthodox kids in the special ed programs in the public schools, and a few kids like mine who are from observant Conservative families. So my kids are not the only ones who miss school for these holidays, but most of the Jewish kids are from less observant Reform families and don't miss any school days for holidays.
I have always tried to email all the teachers a few weeks in advance to warn them of upcoming absences for Jewish holidays. It never occurred to me that teachers might totally not understand the holiday of YK.
Someday I will write a book, and I will use for a title of at least a chapter, a conversation I had with a coworker once:
coworker:' what are you doing for Christmas?' me: 'We're Jewish'. coworker: bewildered pause - 'but what are you doing for Christmas?'
You are fortunate to live in an area well-populated with Jews! We don't! I have had people tell me I am the first Jew they ever met. I have had one guy argue with me - ARGUE - that there was no way I could be Jewish because a) he had never met one and b) my NAME does not occur in the BIBLE!! Sheesh.
People have usually seen Rosh Hashana and Passover on their calendars, but the only Jewish holiday most of them have ever heard of is Chanukah. It's always a big surprise to them when I explain it is NOT a major religious holiday! It's the only one they know.
coworker:' what are you doing for Christmas?' me: 'We're Jewish'. coworker: bewildered pause - 'but what are you doing for Christmas?'
I suppose you could tell her that on the date that SHE would be celebrating Christmas you would be eating Chinese food and going to a movie. And then you could ask her what SHE was going to be doing on Yom Kippur! (But I suppose that would require a lot of explanation of what Yom Kippur is.)
My husband says that some Christians think they are being open-minded by being willing to allow Jews to celebrate Christmas in a Jewish way.
I have had one guy argue with me - ARGUE - that there was no way I could be Jewish because a) he had never met one
I assume that you told him that now that he had met a Jew (you), he would be prepared to not doubt the existence of other Jews he might meet in the future.
--- I have friend from elementary school through high school who moved out to rural Wisconsin senior year of HS and who I see from time to time (on the way to and from going to my kids' summer camps) who was raised as a Catholic (as was her husband) and who is a member of an evangelical Christian church. When she heard that we build a sukkah for Sukkot (or maybe she saw it in photos we were showing her), she was really intrigued that Jews still celebrate the holiday of "Booths" that she had read about in the Old Testament. She was very interested in how the original Hebrew might read differently from translations she knows, so I gave her a copy of the JPS English translation of Tanach that I happened to see at a used book sale.
I'm looking forward to our Shabbat dinner/late Tu B'Shevat seder tonight. The meal is tree-themed vegan with each dish having a few tree-products in it. It is pareve, but I'm going to use our "Meat dishes" so that they won't clash with my autumn table cloth with maple leaves on it.
Shabbat Shalom, l'kulam!
Last Edit: Jan 21, 2011 11:22:02 GMT -5 by Debbie B.
Our seder went GREAT! I took to heart some advice from the Hazon site, and didn't try to tell people everything I knew! (my great fault). I chose 'environmental stewardship' as the main topic and found great readings from a variety of sources - and chose only FOUR, one for each 'world'. I was able to get the entire group REALLY talking and discussing and going to town on recycling, reducing waste and all sorts of kinds of sustainability options - and the lunch afterward was great too, with even MORE discussions! Best event I've ever hosted, in my opinion. But quite honestly, after three glasses of wine, I was glad to be sitting down for the rest of it! whew! I don't usually drink much. I made a point of bringing in the idea of tzedakah as a Jewish concept, and how making a charitable plan (and choosing which causes you want most to support) is a very Good Idea (and it is!)
Simcha: Kol ha-Kavod! It sounds like you led a really well-planned and meaningful seder.
MIne was not too organized, but it was just my family and two guests and they didn't even know that it was going to be a Tu B'shevat seder until a few days before. Our friend's sister had led T. bS. seders for groups before, so I guess mine was a bit pathetic compared to what she had done. It turns out that she had been a founder of Limmud in Switzerland about a decade ago after enjoying Limmud UK so much, so I think she is the type to do major Jewish event organizing.
I didn't find out until I was printing the hagaddah in the afternoon that our red ink cartridge for our color laser printer is almost out. The print was faint, but readable. I only printed one full haggadah, plus extra pages for the blessings, but didn't really need those. Then I was running behind, so I didn't have a chance to carefully put out all the tree items for the seder ahead of time. Hence, I totally forgot about the mango and pistachio nuts I bought.
We used grape juice, not wine. And I used smaller plastic disposable wine glasses instead of our glass ones so that we could fill them enough to see the colors of the juice without ending up drinking a quart of juice per person.
We all laughed at the references to budding plants given the extreme cold and icy conditions outside. The temps had been getting down to zero degrees F.
I did remember that we had the perfect trivets to use: made of beautiful different colored woods from Costa Rica.
Last Edit: Jan 24, 2011 11:37:37 GMT -5 by Debbie B.
I ended out just handing out copies of the haggadah to people as they left - I used it mostly as a source book for me, and otherwise used primary sources - two poems by Ruth Brin, a short statement about Tu B'shevat from Rabbi Adin Steinsalz and we watched that cute three -minute video on G-dcast about Honi the Circle Maker. I made a plan with notes before hand and used that, and wrote questions to get the discussions started. One thing I did worked well was, near the beginning, I had everybody write down ONE thing they used or appreciated from trees on a slip of paper and put the paper in a basket. Then later in the seder, I had the youngest child (9) take them out and read them.
I stuck to three 'fruits' (pistachio nuts, apricots and blueberries) and a dish of spices for the seder. Some years we've had 7 or 15 fruits, but this year I went for minimalism to focus the event more on the subject and discussion, and less on the volume of foods.
Oh - we 'did' the seder in the living room, and THEN went into the dining area to eat - fish, noodle salad and green salad with challah, and bread pudding for dessert.
We have always used both wine and juice at our Tu B'Shevat sederim, to accommodate the drinkers and the non-drinkers (about half and half). So we had white wine and zinfandel, and cab and merlot, plus lemonade and cran-apple juice, pomegranate blueberry and grape juices.
Nice serving dishes - but paper plates and cups - helped make it work. Just under three hours total, and everybody left happy - I also had 'gifts' and a drawing - some small books, Shabbat candles, and my biggie grand prize - a TREE! (potted plant type). I don't think I spent over $100 altogether, but I really didn't keep track. It was fun.
I like your idea of having people write down an item from trees that they appreciate and of simplifying the number of tree foods to be eaten at the seder so that there can be more emphasis on something important like environmental stewardship.
I also like the idea of using other juices besides grape. No one in my family likes purple grape juice. I brought up my kids with white grape juice to minimize stains! But they do like cranberry-apple which also has a tree product component. And cranberry-apple is still red, so it would still work in the color-mixture drink scheme.
I'll try to remember that for future Tu B'shevat seders.
Starting the seder in the living room is a suggestion I think I saw in "A Night to Remember" a wonderful modern Passover Haggadah with diverse relevant quotations in addition to the traditional text. I got to meet Mishael Zion, one of the authors, when I was he was a Limmud Chicago presenter and I volunteered to be his liaison. However, since we do our seders at the traditional time, I've been reluctant to add a room shift into a schedule that already goes to midnight.
Anyway, Simcha, hearing about your seder is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing it.
I'd be interested to hear of other Tu B'Shevat activities anybody has been involved in - did anybody plant trees, for instance? (common in Israel, out of the question at 5000 feet in the dry desert here!) did anybody ATTEND a seder? Just do 'something' at home about it? Donate to the Arbor Society? Eat fruit?.....
Thank you for reminding me. My sponsoring rabbi's shul was collecting money to plant trees in Israel to replace those lost in the big fire. I meant to send chai or double chai to them for that, but ran out of checks and my new ones just came in the mail today.
Another year, and Tu B'Shevat is nearly upon us once again (February 8th). What are your plans to mark the day, if any? This year, we are going to acknowledge the holiday on the following Shabbat (since T B'S) is midweek). We will have a community Shabbat dinner and.....actually we haven't decided yet. Any suggestions?
I don't know if my family will be doing anything special for Tu B'shevat this year. My minyan already had its annual Shabbaton last weekend which with it's theme of Food and Sustainability would have fit in nicely with Tu B'shevat, and I don't think the minyan will be doing anything special for the holiday. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the members who supply kiddush for either the Shabbat before or after the holiday include a lot of tree products (fruits, nuts, chocolate, etc).
I am trying to push my daughter to organize a Tu B'shevat seder for students at Brandeis where she is a freshman. It could be easily done before Shabbat lunch at the dining hall with the kosher food option. And it could be fun. Plus the Hazon emphasis on sustainability and on supportive relationships between people would go over well with Brandeis students since the school really emphasizes social justice.
My daughter was complaining that at Brandeis the Conservative services and events have less attendance (even though there are likely to be a good number of Conservative Jewish students---probably at least 1/3 of the 55% Jewish undergrads) because the Orthodox and Reform student groups are bigger and therefore have better funded and attended services (Orthodox) and events (both). So a bad feedback cycle keeps the Conservative group small.
I'm thinking that we will have a community Shabbat dinner followed by a Tu B'shevat observance that doesn't involve TOO much food! What would be some interesting dessert type choices that incorporate the seven species?