Tu Bishvat

Tu Bishvat, traditionally known as the new year of the trees, is a time to think about relating to the natural world created by Almighty.

In the Jewish scheme of the world, trees have always occupied a key and revered role. According to the Creation story, in the book of Genesis, seed bearing plants and fruit trees were put on the Earth before any other living thing. In other words, the first thing G-d did once He had created firm land was to plant trees!


This holiday can be celebrated by planting trees, eating fruit, and having a Tu Bishvat Seder, or "Order of Celebration.


” This ritual began with the kabbalistic masters of the 15th century. To the kabbalists, or mystics, every piece of fruit holds the seed of the next generation, in other words, the potential for new life.


According to the tradition of the Hasidim, on Tu Bishvat the Almighty decides the fate of trees and their fruits in the upcoming harvest.


There is no set liturgy for the modern Tu Bishvat seder. Some Jewish families like to eat a vegetarian dinner on Tu Bishvat. A favorite is vegetarian lasagna and noodle kugel, a noodle casserole with fruit.


However there are some common elements in a Tu Bishvat Seder. These are the drinking of four different types of wine and eating four different types of fruit, which would be blessed before eating.


The first cup of wine is white wine made of grapes, or non-alcoholic grape juice. It symbolizes winter and the mystical dimension of atzilut, or emanation, at which G-d's energy infused the creation process with initial life.


The first fruit is fruit that is hard on the outside and soft on the inside, such as walnuts, coconuts, or almonds. The hard shell symbolizes the protection that the earth gives us and reminds us to nourish the strength and healing power of our own bodies.


The second cup of wine or grape juice is mostly white, but with a little red mixed in. It symbolizes the passing of the seasons and the mystical concept of formation and birth, often associated with water.


The second fruit is soft with a pit in the center—such as olives, dates, peaches, and the like. It symbolizes the life-sustaining power that emanates from the earth. It also reminds us of the spiritual and emotional strength within each of us.


The third cup of wine is mostly red with a little white mixed in. It symbolizes once again the change of seasons and the mystical concept of beriah, or creation.

The third fruit is soft throughout and completely edible, such as figs, grapes, and raisins. This type symbolizes G-d's omnipresence and our own inextricable ties with the earth.


The fourth cup of wine is all red, symbolizing the mystical concept of fire and the idea that within all living things dwells a spark of G-d.


The fourth fruit has a tough skin on the outside but sweet fruit within, such as--mangos, bananas, avocados, or sabra, a desert pear. This type of fruit symbolizes the mystery of the world and our study of Torah. We are constantly seeking to uncover her secrets, and are continually nourished by Torah’s fruit.


It is common to add a fruit to eat first time after long time not having it in order to bless Almighty for enable Him us to live up to this day and eat the fruit He blessed to grow.


In Ukraine the Tu Bishvat holiday is also a day celebrating the anniversary of one the most famous Jewish sages – Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Shvadron, let the memory of him be blessed - Maharsham of Berezhany. The Jewish Ukrainian People had many like him in our history so we have a very strong spiritual connection to the history of our people in Ukraine, as well as to the Ukrainian people.


Rav Shvadron was appointed Rabbi of the Berezhany district in 1882 and continued to serve in that position until he departed from this world in 1911. He was involved in the ordination of Rabbis outside his community, and established a small local Yeshiva, where young men could study canonical texts and traditions.


Rav Shvadron published many books and commentaries. He received every day a big bag of mail and he answered every single letter. He was a genius in learning, a gifted teacher and an invaluable advisor to the Jewish community in Galicia and around the world.


Physically he was short and skinny, but in everything else he was a giant of impossible comparison.


To commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death, more than a hundred pilgrims – Shvadron’s grand children, in fact – came to Ukraine from around the World to celebrate the memory of this righteous personality on January 21. The festivities took place in Berezhany, where he rests in an ancient Jewish cemetery. Emotions were high, especially in discussions of the importance of preserving Jewish memory and the fantastic Jewish history on this land as part of the Ukrainian State heritage.


The festive group then traveled to Kuty, another historical town in the Karpaty – the Carpathian mountains. There they celebrated Shabbat and retold stories about their grandparents and the flourishing Jewish life in Ukraine in the past and the revival the Jewish life here today.


As Ukraine was always the bread basket of Europe, we wish that the upcoming growing season will be blessed by Almighty and bring to the Ukrainian People a rich harvest and great enjoyment.


Wherever you live, may you enjoy all the beauty that nature unfolds with the approach of Tu bi Shvat celebration and the beginning of Spring.




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