Dear TEE Community,

Just as winter is hitting its stride here in Rochester, the air is warming and there’s a hint of spring in the Land of Israel. In ancient times, this was the season when farmers began their planting and so Tu biShevat, the 15th of the month of Shevat, marked the agricultural new year, the date from which the age of crops was counted. Once the majority of Jews began to live outside of Israel, the meaning of Tu biShevat diminished.

In the Middle Ages, Jewish mystics created a ceremony for Tu biShevat based on the structure of the Passover seder. For them the Tree of Life was a central image of the sacred and so they observed Tu biShevat as a celebration of trees and their fruit.

However, it wasn’t until the growth of the environmental movement in the United States that Tu biShevat became a widely known holiday. Connecting with the ecological message of the observance, contemporary Jews have renewed and recreated the Tu biShevat seder. What was initially an esoteric ritual for a small elite group is now a mainstream event, observed in Jewish communities throughout the world.

This year provides an opportunity for yet another innovation in the observance of Tu BiShevat as we gather online to have our seder on Friday January 29th. The Temple will provide the service booklet but you will have to provide the other ritual elements of wine or juice and fruit.

To prepare for the seder, I recommend you have

1. a glass of red wine or juice
2. a glass of white wine or juice
3. two empty glasses (we’ll use those to combine the red and white wine/juice)
4. three types of fruit: with an outer shell, such as oranges or nuts; with an inner pit or seed, such as avocado or grapes; that is eaten whole, such as berries

Our Tu biShevat gathering this year will be an opportunity to look forward to spring and also a reminder that the seasons ahead will bring new growth and connection. I hope you will join us.

Be well / Zei gesunt / Sano,

Rabbi Drorah Setel