With Tu BiShvat just around the corner, we spoke with Rebbitzen Batya Miller on the subject of Tu BiShvat, the Jewish New Year of Trees. She discusses the Oro Shel Adam upcoming Tu BiShvat Seder.
OSA: What exactly is Tu Bishvat?
Rebbitzen Batya Miller: The first Mishnah in Rosh Hashana teaches us that Tu Bishvat, 15th of Shevat, is the new year for trees. In halacha, this “new year” has practical implications for agricultural mitzvot including Maaser (tithing fruits) and Orlah. Even before the custom to have a seder, Tu Bishvat was always considered to be a happy day with no fasting and no added tachanun (supplication) in prayer.
OSA: Why do we mark a new year for trees at this time?
RBM: Commentators explain that while it’s still in the middle of the winter season, the majority of rains have fallen in Eretz Yisrael and starting from Tu BiShvat fruit trees begin to blossom.
Rav Issac Luria and the Tu Bishvat Seder
RBM: The great Kabbalists of Tzfat led by the students Rav Issac Luria Ari Z”l established the custom to do a Tu Bishvat Seder.
Just like on Pesach there are four cups of wine or grape juice at the Tu Bishvat Seder. Here, however, we don’t just drink 4 cups of wine. We go from completely white wine for the first cup and move progressively to the fourth cup which is completely red. This development represents moving from latent potential to actualizing potential.
Shivaat Haminim Seven Species and Tu Bishvat Seder
RBM: The 12 fruits eaten at the seder are divided into 4 groups, separated by the cups of wine. The fruits include the shivaat haminim (seven species of Eretz Yisrael)- wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranate, olives and dates. Additionally almonds, etrog (citron), walnuts, apples, carob and pear are also eaten at the seder.
At our seder, in addition to making the standard brachot for the fruits and foods we eat, we add verses from Tana”ch which highlight each individual fruit eaten at the seder. Throughout the Seder, my husband and I add stories and deep Hassidic teachings about the fruits.
OSA: Why is Tu Bishvat so special for you?
RBM: Tu Bishvat is a chag which represents our deep connection to Eretz Yisrael, and it celebrates the fruits of our labor in the spiritual and physical realms.
Tu BiShvat, Dati Leumi and Zionism
OSA: Does Tu Bishvat have a special significance for Zionists?
RBM: Without a doubt it does especially in the Dati Leumi (religious Zionist) community and even in the secular Zionist community. Tu Bishvat has definitely taken on added significance over the last 72 years since our national return to the land.
Tu BiShvat and Jewish Obligation
OSA: Why should Jews celebrate Tu Bishvat with a Seder even though it’s not mandatory in Jewish law?
RBM: We should always be looking for things to celebrate especially during challenging times like the Corona period. Celebrating our Land and its fruits are among our greatest blessings. There is great taanug (delight) in eating and celebrating the fruits of Eretz Yisrael.
Tu BiShvat on Yishuv Adam
OSA: Is Tu Bishvat commonly celebrated in Geva Binyamin?
RBM: Every year for the last 7 years Oro Shel Adam has hosted a Tu Bishvat Seder for the OSA yeshiva and Anglos of Adam. The first Oro Shel Adam event ever was a Shabbatone on Tu Bishvat (January 2013). We combined the third meal with our annual Tu Bishvat Seder.
Tu Bishvat Zoom Seder
This year because of the Corona restrictions, for the first time we are opening up our seder to the broader public by hosting the Seder via Zoom. It gives people who might not be able to normally participate the opportunity to join us and experience this special event. Click here to reach Rabbi Miller on WhatsApp or email him.
OSA: What do you like people to walk away with after the Tu Bishvat Seder?
RBM: We hope that people that participate have a greater appreciation for Hashem’s beautiful fruits of Eretz Yisrael and His giving to us. On a deeper level, I hope people walk away with an appreciation of our ability for inner growth and fulfilling our own potential.