Looking to explore an often forgotten holiday, I created and led my students in a Tu B’Shevat Seder. Every seder requires a haggadah. The one I created and used with my students is linked below.
What is Tu B’Shevat?
Tu B’Shevat is a holiday celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring. We sometimes call Tu B’Shevat רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה לָאִילָנוֹת, or The New Year of the Trees. This is because it comes at the time when the trees of Israel begin to bloom, signaling the beginning of their new year.
Trees, like all of us, encounter cycles or reoccurring steps in our lives. As Jews, we celebrate these cycles in our holidays, celebrating the passage of time and drawing ourselves to reflect on our year. We see this most strikingly in רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה, or the Jewish New Year. Here we reflect on the year past, and rejoice in the renewal of a new year.
Similar to Rosh Hashanah, Tu B’Shevat is a new year for the trees, and celebrates the renewal for the trees; the blooming of new plants, flowers, and fruits to be eaten. To acknowledge this renewal, we eat new fruits, taking time to think of what each fruit can mean for us as a community and ourselves.
By eating these fruits and taking time to reflect on them, we recognize that often times the best way to understand ourselves is to look to nature for inspiration and reflection. After all, it can be very difficult to reflect without inspiration.
Tu B’Shevat is sometimes referred to and celebrated as a “Jewish Arbor Day.” The renewal of the trees reminds us that we are ultimately the caretakers of the Earth, left to ensure the conservation of the abundance of diverse species on our planet. Therefore, some may take this day to plant trees, plants, or take part in activities to preserve the earth such as recycling and collecting litter.
As you and your table mates continue through to the Seder, keep in mind the many themes of Tu B’Shevat, engage in the activities laid out, and rejoice in the coming of Spring.