“If we learn, in nature, to receive the soul element together with sense perception, then we shall have the Christ relationship to outer nature. This Christ relationship to outer nature will be something like a kind of spiritual breathing process… When we make our way through the world with an awareness that together with everything we see, everything we hear, there is soul and there is spirit flowing into us, and with the awareness that at the same time soul is flowing from us out into the world, then we shall have gained the awareness needed by humankind for the future.” ~Rudolf Steiner (GA 194)
29 January 2021 – “Speaking with the Stars”: Mercury is heading southwest in his retrograde dance. The solar system’s smallest planet is high in the west at sunset next to the the Wolf Moon.
Snow Moon all aglow
Hunger Moon watch us grow
Wolf Moon howling low
Quickening Moon help us know
It’ time to celebrate Tu B’Shvat – the “New Year for the Trees ” which occurs every year around the Full Quickening/ Wolf Moon, which signals the Cross Quarter between Winter Solstice & Spring Equinox. This is when the sap begins to rise.
Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand the relationship between the spiritual & physical worlds. Spiritual Science tells us that the human being is a reversed plant. Our head is the root. The higher spiritual realms are where these roots come from, which then ultimately manifests their influence through branches & leaves – our heart & lungs & limbs, our thinking, feeling & willing in the world.
In the 16th century, the Kabbalists compiled a Tu B’Shvat “Seder*,” similar to the Seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, & discusses philosophical & Kabbalistic concepts, like the idea that by eating with the highest intention we can repair the ‘fall’. The ‘sin’ against the Tree of Knowledge was that Adam & Eve ate its fruit before it was ripe.
So, what is it about waiting (perhaps, wading) that transforms knowledge from hurtful to healthy? Do we have faith that the spring will come & everything will grow & ripen in its season?
Through conscious eating, we have a daily opportunity to correct a part of our soul, so deep & intrinsic that it reaches back into the Garden of Eden.
The custom on Tu B’Shvat is to eat fruits from the seven species for which the Earth is praised: “…a land of wheat and barley and (grape) vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and (date) honey” (Deut. 8:8).
On Tu B’Shvat, it is also customary to eat a “new fruit” something we have not yet tasted this year.
This festival lets us ask: Am I getting the spiritual food I need, to truly live with grace, or is my tree being blown down by the forces of information overload & rampant materialism?
Am I part of a strong community, providing a warm & nurturing environment? Or am I cast into the pale bleak anonymity of urban life & cyberspace?
Am I looking to future generations knowing that I am providing them with the proper foundations for their lives?
The word “Shvat” is also related to the Hebrew word for a staff or rod. A staff can be used as a symbol of power; or as a cane to lean on. This is an underlying theme of the month.
So as we open our thinking, feeling & willing to align with the rising sap, in gratitude for the fruits of life; we can use this time to focus on the idea of consciously using our daily behavior as a medium for spirituality.
*Tu B’Shvat seder
PREPARATIONS: lots of fruit, including: The seven species:
Figs, Dates, Pomegranates, Olives, Grapes(or raisins) wheat = Challah bread and barley, various nuts with the shells (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, coconut), and fruits with peels (oranges, pomegranates, avocado) Other fruits with edible seeds (e.g. blueberries) Other fruits with inedible pits (e.g. peaches, plums) Wine or grape juice, both white and red. Charity box
THE SEDER BEGINS
The leader asks: Why do we celebrate the New Year for the trees on Tu B’Shvat?
All say: Since the Holy Temple was destroyed, farmers could no longer bring the First Fruits (Bikkurim) as an offering. So on Tu B’Shvat we offer the “fruit of our lips,” in praise for all the fruit trees in the world.
A participant says: Tu Bishvat marks a new period for taking tithes, a portion of which is given to the poor. Therefore: “When a person is privileged to eat in the presence of Love, they must show appreciation by giving charity to the poor and feeding them, just as The Source in Her bounty feeds them.” (“Zohar” – Parshat Trumah) At this point it is appropriate to pass around a ‘pushka’ to collect tzedakah. After the seder, the money should be donated to a worthy cause.
A participant says: The Mishnah in Tractate Rosh Hashana says that Tu B’Shvat is New Year for the TREE (singular). This reference to a singular tree alludes to “The Tree” — the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. “And The Divine said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb-yielding seeds, and fruit trees bearing fruit of its kind.’ ‘Fruit tree’ means the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which put forth blossoms and fruit. ‘Bearing fruit’ is the tzaddik, the basis of the world. ‘Of its kind’ means all the human beings who have in them the spirit of holiness, which is the blossom of that tree. This is the covenant of holiness, the covenant of peace — and the faithful enter into that kind and do not depart from it. The Tzaddik generates, and the tree conceives and brings forth fruit of its kind.” (“Zohar” – Bereishit 33a)
Meditation: “One should intend that they are eating at the celestial table, in the Garden of Eden before the Divine Presence.” (“Raishit Chochma” — Shar HaKedusha)
Take a few moments and think deeply about being in the company of The Divine… sitting at the table of The One… experiencing the sublime spiritual pleasure of a relationship with the Creator Herself.
A participant says: humanity’s name — “Adam” — is derived from the word Earth, adama. And Eve = “a living being’. While humanity is at once the pinnacle of creation, we are also dependent on the earth for our most basic needs. The Torah, refers to the human being as a “tree of the field” (Deut. 20:19). Our sages learn from this verse a prohibition against any needless destruction. In other words, fruit trees serve as the archetype for our relationship and responsibility to our environment. It was through a mistake in eating unripe fruit that caused Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden. Eating fruit is a metaphor for our interaction with this world. Correct usage leads to a perfected world and spiritual bliss. Misuse can lead to destruction and spiritual degradation. The seder of Tu B’Shvat is our opportunity to rectify the past iniquity and return once again to our rightful place within the Garden.
All say: Adam and Eve by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil created consequences. To get back to wholeness we eat our fruit today with pure intentions, as if from the Tree of Life.
A participant says: In the Talmud, Rabbi Abbun said: “Each life form, especially fruit, is entrusted to a specific angel”. By saying a blessing over a fruit, we empower that angel to reproduce more of that fruit. The Talmud says that someone who eats and doesn’t say a blessing is considered a thief. Why? Because every aspect of God’s creation is inherently holy. A blessing re-infuses the world with holiness. Eating without a blessing, however, lowers the level of holiness in the world without replacing the loss — and is regarded as theft.
A participant says: The Baal Shem Tov, was once visiting the home of Rabbi Yaakov Koppel. When Rabbi Yaakov danced in front of his Shabbos table for an hour, the Baal Shem Tov asked to explain this unusual custom. Rabbi Yaakov replied: “Before I taste physical food, I absorb the food’s spiritual essence. In doing so, I become so excited that I sing and dance!”
The leader says: Everything in the physical world is a metaphor for a deeper spiritual concept.
Eating is to the body, what knowledge is to the soul. When we eat, we internalize the good part of the food — and through that we grow and develop. Similarly, when we learn a new piece of information, we must “chew it over,” digest it, and integrate it into our very being. Only then can we truly grow in wisdom and spirituality.
Now comes the part we’ve been waiting for: drinking wine and enjoying other delicacies! Wheat and barley are the first two of the seven species. “A land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives and honey” (Deut. 8:8).
The leader says: Before saying the blessing, let us pause and reflect on our good fortune. A blessing is a “thank-you note” to our Creator. The sages say: “Who is the wealthy person? The one who is happy with what they have.” The more we appreciate our gifts, the more sincere is our thanks, and the more sublime is our pleasure. Recite the blessing on the bread: “Baruch Ata Adon-ai, Elohai-nu, Melech HaOlam ha-motzie lechem min ha-aretz.” “Blessed are you, Creator of the Universe, who fashions bread from the Earth.”
Meditation: Savor each bite of the cake or bread. Appreciate that The Divine loves us and created everything for our good.
FRUIT – On Tu B’Shvat, we eat the fruit by which The Divine praises the Earth. As the verse says: “The trees have borne their fruit, fig tree and vine have yielded their strength. Children be happy & rejoice”.
The order of eating will be: olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates.
“Baruch Ata Adod-nai Elohai-nu Melech HaOlam boray pri ha-aitz.” “Blessed are you Creator of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.”
If there is a seasonal fruit at the table which you have not yet tasted this season, say the following additional blessing before eating the fruit: “Baruch Ata Ado-noi, Elohai-nu Melech HaOlam, sheh-he-che-yanu vi-kee-yimanu vi-hee-gee-yanu laz-man ha-zeh.” “Blessed are You Creator of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”
Take each fruit one by one, as the appropriate paragraph below is recited. Enjoy the many unique flavors and textures. Reflect on the reality that the Creator of time and space wants us to take pleasure in everything that is in the world.
Participants take turns saying the following paragraphs:
Olives: “The Divine called your name ‘a green olive tree, nice and beautiful fruit.’” (Jeremiah 11:16)
“Your children shall be like olive plants around your table.” (Psalms 123:3)
The Sages taught: “Just as olive oil brings light into the world, so do the people bring light into the world.” (Midrash — Shir HaShirim Raba 1:2) & so may it be
Dates: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree” (Psalms 92:13). The righteous are fruitful and sweet, just like a date palm. “Your stature is like a palm tree” (Song of Songs 7:8). “No part of the palm tree is wasted. The dates are for eating; the Lulav branches are for waving in praise on Sukkot; the dried thatch is for roofing; the fibers are for ropes; the leaves are for sieves; and the trunk is for house beams. So too, every one us is needed
Grapes: “Just as a vine has large and small clusters and the large ones hang lower, so too the people: Whoever labors in Torah and is greater in Torah, seems lower than his fellow [due to his humility].” (Midrash – Vayikra Raba 36:2)
Figs: Rabbi Yochanan said: “What is the meaning of ‘He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit’? (Proverbs 27:18) Why is the Torah compared to a fruit tree? Figs on a tree do not ripen all at once, but a little each day. Therefore, the longer one searches in the tree, the more figs he finds. So too with Torah: The more one studies, the more knowledge and wisdom one finds.” (Talmud – Eruvin 54a)
Pomegranates: “Let us get up early to the vineyards. Let us see if the vine has flowered, if the grape blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates have budded. There I will give you my love.”
“If the pomegranates have budded.” These are the little children who are like the many seeds of a pomegranate.” (Midrash – Shir HaShirim Rabba 6:11)
For discussion: Rami Bar Yechezkel once came to Bnei Brak and saw goats grazing under a fig tree. Honey was dripping from the figs and milk from the goats — and they became intermingled. He said: “Behold, a land flowing with milk and honey!” (Talmud – Ketubot 111b) Share a story or experience where life flowed with the sweetness of milk & honey.
WINE: At the Tu B’Shvat seder, it is traditional to drink four cups of wine, similar to the Passover Seder.
First Cup – pure white
Second Cup – pale pink (white with a drop of red wine)
Third Cup – darker pink (with more red added)
Fourth Cup – almost totally red (with only a drop of white)
A participant says: White wine represents nature in potential. Red wine represents nature in full bloom. On this day, we begin to leave the winter behind and move into a period of renewal and the fullness of life. It is stated in the Zohar: “Wine has two colors — white and red. White is from the right side [of kindness]; red from the left side [of strength and judgment].”
As we progress from white to red, we move from potential to actuality. We are able to appreciate The Divine discernment as well as kindness. We see The Divine design and goodness in the world with increasing clarity.
A participant says: “Wine rejoices the heart of man.” This refers to the wine of Torah. Yayin (Hebrew for wine) equals 70, the numerical value of Sod, meaning “secret.” [Wine represents the hidden aspects of the Torah.] (“Zohar” — Parshat Pinchas).
A participant says: The Talmudic section dealing with agriculture is called “trust in The Divine.” When a farmer plants a seed, trust in The Divine gives him the strength to survive the winter. On Tu B’Shvat we begin to see that trust rewarded. Similarly, when we plant a seed for personal growth, it requires trust and patience to survive the ‘cold,’ before we see the fruits of our labor.
We will now drink four cups of wine (or grape juice) in conjunction with four different categories of fruit. Each of these pairs correspond to each of the four spiritual realms (from lowest to highest):
action — asiah
formation — yetzirah
creation — briah
emanation of pure Spirit — atzilut
Each level becomes more spiritual and connected to the Creator. As we eat, we elevate the fruits — and ourselves — through the various levels, rising higher and higher.
A participant says: The Almighty said: “Although wine can be a source of trouble in this world, in the future I shall make it only a source of joy, as it says: ‘And it shall come to pass on that day, that the mountains will drip with sweet wine’ (Yoel 3:18).” (Midrash – Vayikra Raba 12:5)
Pour the first cup of wine (all white):
All say the following blessing, and then drink from the wine
“Baruch Ata Adon-ai Elohai-nu Melech HaOlam boray pri ha-gafen.” “Blessed are Creator of the Universe who creates the fruit of the vine.”
Slow down and really enjoy the taste of the wine. The most prestigious universities offer courses in wine tasting. There’s a lot to appreciate in life. Be a connoisseur!
The leader says: We now eat fruits with inedible shells or peels. For example: nuts, pomegranate, oranges, avocado. The edible part of the fruit corresponds to perfection and purity, while the inedible is connected to deficiency and impurity. This is parallel to the realm of action (asiah), the lowest of the spiritual worlds — a world which is enveloped by materialism, just as the fruit is enveloped in its peel/shell.
A participant says: Rabbi Tarfon compared people to a pile of walnuts. If one walnut is removed, each and every nut in the pile is shaken and disturbed. So too, when a single person is in distress, every other person is shaken. (Midrash – Shir HaShirim Raba 6:11)
A participant says: “As it is the virtue of a nut to be closed in from all sides, so too the Heavenly Chariot which goes out of the Garden of Eden is hidden on all sides. And just as the four sections of a walnut are untied at one side and separated on the other, so are all parts of the Heavenly Chariot united in perfect union — and yet each part fulfills a specific purpose.” (“Zohar” – Shmot 15b)
Meditation: As you toss away the peels and shells, see one of your bad character traits (anger, impatience, etc.) being tossed away. In your mind’s eye, picture the bad trait as the shell. Then, as you toss it away, feel the trait leaving you. That’s not the real you. The real you is the fruit… delicious and nourishing. See the trait going into the compost to release that energy & create a fertile loom for your true fruit.
CUPS 2, 3,4 – Drink the second cup — pale pink (white with a drop of red).
The leader says: We now eat fruits with inedible pits. For example: dates, olives, peaches, plums, cherries. This stage is comparable to the realm of formation (yetzirah). The edible parts of the fruit represent holiness. Pits represent impurities which have penetrated the holiness. As the color of the wine begins to gets darker, we can start to see potential turn into reality. The inedible part has now moved from the outside to the inside of the fruit. This is an advancement toward purity. In addition, the inedible part is no longer waste; it is a seed with potential to grow.
Meditation: Imagine one of your bad traits as this seed. Really see it. Then, see that trait growing and developing into something great. This trait no longer holds you back, but propels you forward. Many great people have turned their faults into assets. You too can become great.
Drink the third cup of wine (dark pink).
The leader says: Now we eat fruits that are completely edible: blueberries. This is the realm of creation (briah), the highest level in the created world. (The three lower worlds — asiyah, yetzirah, and briah — are referred to as ma’aseh bereishit, “the act of creation.”)
Meditation: Things are coming close to their full potential. Even the seeds are now edible. They not only have future potential, but are also delicious and ready to eat right now. Think about an area of life you would like to improve. Picture your ideal self. Realize the real you. Now, for the rest of Tu B’Shvat, actually be that person. Act as if you’re already there. The experience can be transformational.
Drink the fourth cup (red with a drop of white).
The leader says: We now taste the fruit on the table with the best fragrance. This is comparable to the realm of pure Spirit (atzilut). This level is called the ma’aseh merkava, “the act of the Chariot.” The prophet Ezekiel saw a Chariot in his vision relating to the mysteries of creation.
A participant says: In Leviticus 23:40, the Etrog is described as pri aitz hadar — “fruit of the majestic tree.” The Etrog is the most spiritual of all trees, as it’s fruit and bark both have fine taste and smell.
On Tu B’Shvat, it is fitting to pray for a beautiful Etrog during the coming Sukkot.
A participant says: The sense of smell is the purest and most elevated. It is through the nose that The Creator invested Adam with a soul, as it says, “The Divine breathed into man’s nostrils a breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Since there is no perceptible physical matter to smell, it is the most spiritual of the five senses. Burning the fragrant incense was designated as the holiest act of the Jewish year — performed by the Kohen Gadol in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.
CONCLUSION – The leader says: Eating 12 different fruits is significant, since this corresponds to the 12 different arrangements of the four-letter ineffable Name of The Divine. Upon eating the 12th fruit, we recite the verse: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit each person under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Micah 4:3-4)
After-blessing: After enjoying all the wonderful pleasures that The Divine has given us, we complete the process with a meaningful, heartfelt thanks to the Creator.
Let’s all go around a say what we are grateful for.
A participant says: “Rabbi Abba taught: There is no greater indication of the impending redemption than that which the verse (Ezekiel 36:8) states: “And you, mountains, you shall give forth your branches and you shall bear your fruit for all people, & love will come.” (Talmud – Sanhedrin 98a)
Conclusion: And so with that we come to the end of the Tu B’Shvat seder. We have only touched the surface of the true meaning of the holiday and of the significance of trees and fruit in The Divine creation. That is the beauty of the wheel of the year. Each turn of the wheel we celebrate the same holidays, yet each year we grow and develop many new insights.
The rest of the evening is spent singing and dancing. Next year in a whole & peaceful World!
‘Tree of Life’ Feast & ‘Candlemas’ Festival 2 February 2021 – 5:30-7pm
In the Schreinerei of the Rudolf Steiner Branch 4248 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago
The RSB Festivals Committee invites you to celebrate the Cross-quarter between Winter Solstice & Spring Equinox, called by some: Groundhogs Day, Brigid’s Day
or Imbolc – the lambing season, The Feast of the Purification of Mary, & Tu’B’Shavat*- the “New Year for the Trees”.
All are invited to a Potluck consisting of fruits & nuts & seeds-the gifts of the trees. And then Nancy Melvin will facilitate a beeswax candle making workshop – a Candlemas tradition.
*Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into life & personal growth. Throughout the centuries, Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand the One relationship to the spiritual & physical worlds. The higher spiritual realms are roots that ultimately manifest their influence through branches & leaves in the lower realms. In the 16th century, the Kabbalists compiled a Tu B’Shvat “Seder,” somewhat similar to the Seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits & discussing philosophical & Kabbalistic concepts associated with the ‘Tree of Life’. Among other things, the Seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, & to develop a good & generous eye for the world around us.
Suggestions for this special POTLUCK: lots of fruit! including: The seven species:
Figs, Dates, Pomegranates, Olives, Grapes (or raisins) wheat (Challah bread) &
Barley. Various nuts with the shells (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, coconut),
and fruits with peels (oranges, pomegranates, avocado)
Other fruits with edible seeds (e.g. blueberries)
Other fruits with inedible pits (e.g. peaches, plums)
Donations Welcome http://donate.rschicago.org/
For more info. contact Events & Festivals Coordinator Hazel Archer-Ginsberg firstname.lastname@example.org