Jan 30, 2010

Seders Belong at the Pesach Table. Right?

The Tu B'Shevat Seder -- is it a racket?

Discuss. I'm serious, too. I've participated in a seder for Tu B'Shevat the past two years, and I guess it just seems artificial to me. Am I lame for not getting into it? Am I missing something? Or is it a racket?

11 comments:

Mottel said...

It's a weak attempt to make Judaism seem more progressive, but like the cup of Mariam (it's a cup of water) and other Reform innovations, they lack any true sense of heritage and continuity . . . instead they feel contrived and superficial.

Slave to my Bulldog said...

I guess it really depends on who you are holding the Seder with. Was very lucky to attend one in LA a couple of years back at a neighbor's home, where the company included an extremely well-learned and knowledgeable scholar who shared a lot of her insight and knowledge of Chassidut and Kabbalah. Guess it just depends on the participants.

Anonymous said...

Fisrt Tu B'Shevat seder I attended was 20 years ago with a main stream Jewish womens group . I loved it and the eclectic group women it gathered together. I have been to a few more of these celebrations over the years. The ones that first come to mind , were when my children were young with their Hebrew school programs. I always enjoy the freedom that comes from creating and celebrating original ritual. How wonderful and fulfilling to have the freedom to do this.

Risa said...

There are worse things than a Tu B'Shevat seder but it is really kind of tacked on to the day. The man who gave the d'var tora in our shul yesterday is PhD in agronomy and heads a small department in the ministry of agriculture here in Israel devoted to tora and modern agriculture (shmita, trumot, stuff like that). He began his piece with: "I will tell you what Tu B'shvat is not about. It's not about dried fruit, it's not about planting trees and it's not about drinking different color wines and eating 30 different fruits." It is about the calendar and marking a point in the year when we determine which fruit belongs to this year and which to next year. It's also the half way mark in the rainy season. He then went on to talk about the faith and patience that a farmer has to have while waiting for for the crop to mature and went from there to more things about faith and waiting. It was a lovely drasha and I wouldn't do it justice here. But my point is about the Tu B'Shevat seder. He said it doesn't hurt but it's really not connected.

Slave to my Bulldog said...

...and once again, people who don't realize that mesorah comes from various sources decide to make disparaging comments about things they don't understand.

The whole idea of a Tu b'Shvat seder isn't from the Reform movement, but is based on Kabbalah and was practiced by the Arizal. Didn't realize he was a Reform rabbi. Just b/c some secular Jews adopted it as a custom, to tie it in with an ecological agenda, doesn't make it contrived, superficial, or wrong. Shavua Tov.

Chaviva said...

@Risa See, that's what I'm talking about. An acknowledgement of the day, its meaning and purpose, with the understanding that the seder isn't *really* anything particular necessary or significant. I think it's better that people understand the actual chag and what it meant and means to Israel -- shouldn't we all have a serious and committed connection to understand the bases of our chagim? What if -- b'ezrat HaShem -- we end up in Israel and don't know these chagim that don't mesh in the Diaspora!? Eek!

I think it's important to connect the chag with the environment, but our speaker even failed to really do that.

@Slave and @Mottel Be nice, boys :)

Slave to my Bulldog said...

Sorry, geveret. Didn't mean to make a mess of your forum. :) It just bothers me to no end to hear people make snap judgements about things that they really don't take the time to understand.

For example, the points you and @Risa bring up are valid. I also agree than it's important to tie in the connection between the chag and Eretz Yisrael. However, I would state that holding the seder is an effective way of doing just that, and for many people, it's probably more effective than a drash or shiur on agronomy or agriculture or the structure of the Jewish calendar. Just like the "real" sedarim that take place on Pessah, it's a matter of teaching by doing, and by experiencing these kinds of gifts that Hashem has given us.

mekubal said...

I guess Tu B'Shevat in Israel(where I currently reside) or in the Diaspora, where I started observing it, has never felt to me any more tacked on then Channuka or Purim.

Also quite possibly just as misunderstood. While the Arizal made famous the Seder that the mekubalim now observe today(and to be honest few other people do the full seder), I am fairly certain that it was observed to some extent all the way back to the time of the Gemarra, where it is mentioned in Masechet Rosh HaShanna.

I think the greatest problem lies in general Jewish illiteracy that our generation faces. As Jews we are fortunate to have the secular education to finally step out of the shtetl and interact with mainstream socieity. However, in the process we have not necessarily done an effective job of guarding and transmitting our mesorah so that we and our children know what we are doing.

shavuatov said...

Well, well, well!

We had a Tu Bishvat Seder into which our rabbi put a great deal of work. We have some Israeli people/families in our community so we always get the Israeli perspective for what we are doing included in the seder. So yes, we discussed the reason for the seder, plus we had the wine and fruit/nuts, plus we talked about ecology as well.

rachel

meirame said...

I was lucky enough to celebrate Tu B'Shvat in Israel, baruch Hashem, and I do think it has a different feeling than in the U.S. However, it might also be because I'm in seminary, and from Rosh Chodesh Shvat we've been getting pumped up for what the month, and the fifteenth of it, represent.

Regardless of if you live in Israel or not, the mazal of this month centers on the dormancy of the winter starting to transform into creative and spiritual energy to feed the rest of the year, just as the sap, which has laid dormant in trees, begins to rise. The fascinating thing about Tu B'Shvat is that, in the first mishnah of Rosh Hashana, Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai debate whether this particular Rosh Hashanah of the trees falls on Rosh Chodesh Shvat or the fifteenth. However, it is not called the new year of the 'trees' (ilanot), but the new year of "The Tree"--Ilan (aleph yud lamed nun).

Why is what we always call the new year of the trees really referred to in the singular, tree? It's because the Ilan is representative of the source of all creativity and creative energy throughout the year. It's a Rosh Hashanah when creative energy is decided for the year. This is in keeping with the mazel of Shvat, which takes all the energy that's laid dormant throughout the winter and maximizes it now for the beginning of spring. No matter where you are, this "spring" is symbolic, and ties in with the sap beginning to rise in the trees in Israel. The mazal of Shvat is the same everywhere, no matter what the agricultural state of things.

The mysticism within Tu B'Shvat is probably why it was originally focused on by the Arizal and Kabbalists in Tzfat. In addition, the three categories of fruits symbolize three of the four Kabbalistic worlds, with the fourth being so high it can only be symbolized by smell.

Basically, though it's easier to get into Tu B'Shvat here, the energy of the holiday can be felt anywhere, no matter if there's snow on the ground or not. So feel your sap start to rise, and your creative energy begin to manifest!

-Meg

rivster said...

Let me start off by saying that I am not a fan of the Tu B'Shvat seder. Though I recognize its historical origins, I've never really seen a need for it.

That being said, I lead one each year for my shul.

I lead one because our community enjoys having one and my own personal feelings should not (and do not) prevent others from experiencing the seder.

And each year, I end up enjoying the opportunity to teach text to those in attendance. To share midrashim. And to introduce many of the ideas that have been shared here.

And so even though it still feels slightly artificial to me (as if it is trying to be like its big brother, Pesach), I participate and am grateful for the opportunity to teach.

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