Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tu BiShvat symbolism

On the Tu BiShvat holiday Israelis like to go out into nature and celebrate the birthday of the trees. Today was warm but unfortunately the sky turned brown and we are suffering through a dust storm.

But last night's Tu BiShvat seder at the neighbors' house was nice.
The Talmud calls the 15th (tu) of the month of Shvat a Rosh Hashana (New Year's Day) for the trees.
Later, in the Middle Ages, this was understood as being a time appropriate for celebration.
Wikipedia has interesting things to say about Tu Bishvat and about the revived custom of the Tu Bishvat seder.
Here are some:

"In the 1600s in the Land of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed and his disciples created a Tu Bishvat seder, somewhat like the Passover seder, that celebrated the Tree of Life (the Kabbalistic map of the Sephirot)."
That traditional seder ends with "May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the sin of the first human against the fruit of the tree, be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life."
In addition to this Kabbalistic interpretation, the image of the Tree of Life has recently also taken on new interpretations, e.g. ecological ones.
You see on our table red wine and white wine. If you look at the plate from my previous post, you see figs, dates, raisins, carobs, and and other dried and fresh fruits and nuts.
Here is the way Wiki explains the symbolism:

"In Kabbalistic terms, the fruits that one eats, dried or fresh, can be divided up from lower or more manifest to higher or more spiritual, as follows:

Fruits and nuts with hard, inedible exteriors and soft edible insides, such as oranges and walnuts.

Fruits and nuts with soft exteriors, but with a hard pit inside, such as dates, apricots, olives.

Fruit that is eaten whole, such as figs and berries.

Kabbalistic tradition teaches that eating fruits in this order creates a connection with the Tree of Life that God placed in the Garden of Eden . . . which is also represented by the Sephirot. In effect one is traveling from the most external or manifest dimension of reality, symbolized by fruits with a shell, to the most inner dimension, symbolized not even by the completely edible fruits but rather by a fourth level that may be likened to smell. At the same time, one drinks various proportions of red and white grape juice or wine, from white to red with just a drop of white in it, also corresponding to these levels."


Unknown said...

Great information about another tradition of yours I've never heard of! The display on the plates looks lovely (I've checked the previous post).

cieldequimper said...

What a fine tradition. The fare looks delicious!

Chuck Pefley said...

I guess I said Happy Birthday to a couple of trees on my blog a couple of days ago. Had no idea I was celebrating your Jewish holiday. Very happy to join in, though!!

Reader Wil said...

This is very interesting, but also complicated. You have many beautiful rites and tradition, all with a very great meaning.

Glennis said...

Interesting, completely new to me. Looks a lovely meal full of meaning.

spacedlaw said...

That's an amazing tradition. I'd never heard of it!

VP said...

Great, I like this story, I knew something of it but in a very confused way.

Pietro Brosio said...

That's a great tradition! Your world is so nice, always interesting and rich in events, thoughts and ideas.

Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox said...

I was forwarded your blog about the celebration of trees. I am SO glad. I am an artist and I explore the tree-of-life in my paintings.
Thank you.