What is Tu Bishvat?

Tu Bishvat is the Jewish New Year for Trees. The name simply means the 15th day of the Hebrew month, Shevat. In ancient times, this day marked the beginning of the fiscal year for calculating tithes on produce from trees. The tithes supported the Temple and the poor. Tu Bishvat became a celebration of trees, nature, and land, particularly the Land of Israel.

In the 16th century, Tu Bishvat was reinvigorated by the Kabbalists (Jewish mystics), who highlighted and developed its spiritual aspects. They created a seder (structure and order) for Tu Bishvat, modeled after the Passover seder, to explore the themes of Creation, bounty, and harmony.

Structures, Questions & Fruitfulness:
The Four Worlds of Kabbalah

Assiyah, the world of Action-Doing
Earth
Winter
Manifestation

Yetzirah, the world of Formation-Feeling
Water
Spring
Forming (Categories)

Bri'ah, the world of Creation-Knowing
Air
Summer
Creating

Azilut, the world of Pure Spirit-Being
Fire
Fall
The Moment Before Beginning Has Begun

The themes of the four worlds, and the questions raised below, can be explored on their own, or, ideally, accompanied with the appropriate fruits. Be sure to enjoy and “bring down” all the shefa (bounty) they represent! (See the quotations from Pri Etz Hadar. )

The blessing over fruit from trees is especially appropriate on Tu Bishvat:

Baruch Ata Adonia Eloheynu Melech Halolam Borey Pri Haetz.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of time and space, Creator of the fruit of the tree.

Assiyah—The world of action is represented by fruits and nuts with an outer shell because in this world the path to the center is often blocked at the start.

Question: How can we peel off the crude outside layer, to reveal the pure nourishing, juicy center, that is always wanting pour out?

Yetzirah--The world of formation is represented by fruits that have a soft, edible outside and an inner pit. When one peels off that tough outer shell, there often yet remains a block at the center.

Question: How can Nature inspire us to unblock?

Bri’ah—The world of creation is represented by fruits that are totally soft and edible, because it represents a state in which there is no obstacle to communication and connection.

Question: When in your life have you felt spiritually transparent?

Atzilut—The world of Spirit is Ein Sof (infinite). It has no physical symbol because this expansive state of being and Oneness encompasses everything, but contains no thing (nothing). All true Creation begins from Nothing (yesh me-ayin). Can you be with Ein Sof (the Infinite)?

Invitation: Take several silent moments to contemplate that Which and Whom is beyond our ability to comprehend.


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