Tu b’Shvat (New Year of Trees) Seder
Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 9, 2012
Yesterday was Tu b’Shvat (= 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat), the Jewish New Year of Trees. The earliest reference to this new year is post-biblical (Mishnah RH 1a). It was developed by the kabbalists in Safed, Israel, in the 17th century. That seems to be when the custom of holding a Tu b’Shvat Seder (modelled on the Passover Seder) began. Nowadays, schoolchildren plant trees on Tu b’Shvat and everyone eats fruit. Lots of fruit.
The custom of holding elaborate Tu b’Shvat Seders seems to be fairly recent. Unlike the Passover Seder, which has stringent requirements, the Tu b’Shvat Seder is not standardized (here’s an example). Not all families hold a Seder. Some prepare a festive meal with the Seven Species of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, according to Deut. 8:8). Others eat a few pieces of fruit and call it a day. Still others hold long, elaborate communal seders. My husband really enjoys these, so this year I agreed to go with him to a Seder organized by the Nachalat Yehudah congregation (Carlebach minyan) in our neighbourhood. I stayed for 2 hours, up to the second cup of wine. My husband came back at 11:30 and said they were still going strong.
Everyone walked around the table at the beginning of the Seder, a custom that is inspired by the Sephardic custom of the leader of the Passover Seder carrying the matzah wrapped in a napkin on his shoulder and circling the table. (By the way, there’s also a Rosh Hashanah Seder at the New Year.)
Tu b’Shvat haggadah