Tu'B'Shevat - It's Kabbalistic Significance and How the Seder Is Observed

by Ariel Tzadok/p

According to Mishna Rosh HaShana, the 15th day of the Hebrew month Shevat is called the "New Year" for trees. 15 is written with the two Hebrew letters, Tet Vav, and thus pronounced "Tu." According to the Kabbalah, there is great significance to this day. Indeed an entire Seder of fruits and vegetables is prepared for the great tikkun (rectification), which this day manifests.

On Rosh HaShana (Tishrei 1), whatever amount of sustenance that any living thing is to receive is ordained on this day. Yet, the manifestation of this Divine portion (shefa) manifests at different times of the year as arranged by the Divine plan.

chanoch adds: This is due to the need for people to continually reach out to HaShem during the year and not just on the high holidays.

The 15th of Shevat is the exact middle of the winter: six weeks after the first of Tevet (the beginning of winter), and six weeks before Nisan (the beginning of spring). However in a leap year, the 15th of Shevat falls six weeks before Adar Bet.

chanoch adds: 5779, our current year is a leap year.

Tu'B'Shevat is the day of resurrection for plant life. During the winter months, the plant kingdom lies dormant in the frozen earth, awaiting springtime to again send forth its seeds, and to blossom upon the earth. Yet, as we know, no manner of life and growth can come forth below without first receiving it's spiritual counterpart of nourishment from above.

Tu'B'Shevat, the 15th (full moon) of Shevat, is the day when the spiritual influx is given over into the plant kingdom. On this day, they receive their spiritual nourishment that enables them to awaken, and properly perform their service to creation once spring arrives. Thus this day is the "New Year" for the plant kingdom (called in Hebrew, Ilanot for trees, yet is applicable to the whole plant kingdom).

In celebration of this Divine gift of sustenance and providence, we celebrate by arranging an entire Seder of fruits and vegetables. By eating these things, and by reciting the appropriate blessings over them we are offering shefa (ohr hozer, mayim nokbin) to Heaven in appreciation for all that is given to us.

chanoch adds: Ohr Chozer - returning light and mayim nukvim - female waters are Kabbalistic terms that refer to human actions that draw Shefa.

By doing this act, we thereby increase the amount of abundance (shefa) that God provides to the plant kingdom. Thus by blessing God, we reap the benefit of an expanded harvest, both physically and spiritually.

chanoch adds: Spiritual is the cause and i would have said it first in the paragraph above.

There are various different traditions as to how many fruits and vegetables should be eaten. One tradition holds that one partake of only the seven fruits of the land. The Shulkhan Arukh outlines what these are, and the specific order in which their blessings are recited. This tradition, however, is only according to the pshat.

There are two other traditions, which are based on the Kabbalah and found in many sources, most in the name of Rabbi Haim Vital. Both involve a Seder of either 15 or 30 fruits and vegetables, which are eaten alongside of specific readings from the TaNaKh, Mishna and Zohar.

Sefer Nitei Gavriel on Tu'B'Shevat (page 185, note Gimel) documents in full the order of the fifteen in the name of Moharam Hagiz in his work, Birkhat Eliyahu.

The fruits and vegetables are divided in three different classes:

those emanating from Beriah;

those emanating from Yetzirah and

those emanating from Asiyah.

Beriatic fruits and vegetables are eaten together with their peels (klipot), which are normally considered unclean by the Kabbalists, but not at this high level.

Yetziratic fruits and vegetables have their klipah inside them (the pit), which is disposed of.

Asiyatic fruits and vegatables have their klipot on the outside and are removed and disposed of.

The following order of the fruits and vegetables is my interpretation of the order outlined by Rabbi Hagiz

.

The five Beriatic fruits and vegetables are:

figs

grapes

red apples

pears

quinces

The five Yetziratic fruits and vegetables are:

dates

olives

berries (blueberries or any other kind)

cherries

azaroles (or crabapples)

I am not sure how crabapples fit into the Yetziratic formula. Maybe the seed core is considered its klipah. In such a case, it is possible that a green apple ("granny smith") might be used for this selection.

The five Asiyatic fruits and vegetables are:

pomegranates

almonds

hazelnuts

peanuts

walnuts

Both peanuts and walnuts are my own choices. It appears that any similar type of fruit, vegetable or nut with a hard outer shell, which is to be broken and disposed of, meets the criteria.

The eating of these tree born fruits and vegetables, with their appropriate blessings before and after, is considered a tikkun (rectification) for Adam's eating of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil.

There are five selections representing each world most likely corresponding to the five levels of soul (NaRaNHaY) that emanate from each one of them.

There are no correlations of fruits and vegetables to the world of Atzilut for two reasons. The first is that there is no klipot to speak of from there and second, the world of Atzilut is the source of the shefa (Divine influx). Atzilut is referred to as the "Creator" (i.e., the "Giver"). The lower three worlds are referred to as "Creation (i.e., the "Receivers").

Tu'B'Shevat is a special occasion of spiritual rebirth. May it be God's Will that we keep this in mind.

The link below is a translation of the Sefer Pri Etz Hadar.

  • Tu BeShevat - New Year for the Tree - Pri Etz Hadar - The Original Sedar - Scroll Down 1/4 inch