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Three Tu Bishvat Haggadot

January 20, 2012

Originally published on The Velveteen Rabbi. Reprinted with permission of the author.

The moon of Tevet is beginning to wane. It will shrink down to nothingness and then grow again. When it next reaches roundness, the date will be the 15th of the month of Shvat: the full moon of the deep-winter lunar month when, Jewish tradition tells us, the sap begins to rise again to nurture trees for the year to come.

Tu Bishvat is the (observed) birthday of every tree, also known as the New Year of the Trees. It offers an opportunity to take a journey through the four worlds of existence (action / physicality, emotions, thought, and essence) and to experience those four worlds and the round of the seasons through consuming fruits and juices with holy intent.

This is a holiday I didn't grow up celebrating, but it's become a favorite in my adult life. In south Texas where I grew up — and in the part of the world where the Tu Bishvat seder originated — trees are preparing now to bloom. Here in western Masschusetts, this time of year is usually characterized by ice and snow...though also by the rise of sap in the sugar maples, followed by plumes of sweet steam rising from sugar shacks all over the hills.

Back in 2006 I shared a Tu Bishvat haggadah here. (Hard to believe that was six years ago!) This winter I've had occasion to revise it. It now exists in three editions: one for adults and teens, one for kids in first through fourth grades, and one for little kids. We'll use each of these three versions of this haggadah at my shul in our various Tu Bishvat celebrations this year.

These haggadot contain poetry, environmental teachings from Jewish tradition, kabbalistic (Jewish mystical) teachings about the four worlds, and illustrations of fruits to color in. (You can probably guess which of these three haggadot is geared in each of these ways.)

And I share them here, in case any of y'all need a Tu Bishvat haggadah this year! Feel free to use these as-is, or to use them to spark your own Tu Bishvat creativity. (I only ask that you keep the identifying information there, and/or credit me for the editing / compiling / creativity.) May your celebration of the New Year of the Trees be joyful, meaningful, and — perhaps quite literally — sweet.

Available as PDFs:

Hebrew for "15th of [the month of] Shevat," both a date and the name of a holiday celebrated on that date. A holiday that falls in January or February, it's the New Year for trees. Hebrew for "order," refers to the traditional course of events, or service, surrounding the Passover and Tu Bishvat meals. Yiddish for "synagogue."
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, ordained by ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, serves Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA. Since 2003 she has blogged as The Velveteen Rabbi. Her most recent book is 70 faces (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), a collection of Torah poems.

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