A Tu Bishvat Seder For Every Personality

Tu Bishvat is not just for hippies anymore.

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Over the last decade, seders for Tu Bishvat have spiked in popularity. This growth is largely due to the contemporary Jewish community's interest in "greening" ritual and holidays. Every year, the number of organizations turning to Tu Bishvat to inject some sustainability-awareness into their annual programming grows, as does the collection of environmentally-inspired haggadot for Tu Bishvat available online. (Like this one from MyJewishLearning, this one from Hillel, and this one from Hazon.)

The downside is that some people shy away from celebrating the holiday precisely because it feels too "hippie" or eco-spiritual. But while the Tu Bishvat seder, which was originally developed as a mystical celebration by kabbalists in 16th century Safed, provides a helpful structure for celebrating Tu Bishvat, there are no official rules for the holiday. The lack of halakhic requirements means that seders can be tailored to meet their hosts' personalities--even if they happen to prefer fine china over bicompostable dishware.

The Seder Structure

dried fruit for tu bishvat

Borrowing from Passover's four cups of wine, the kabbalistic seder for Tu Bishvat is divided into four parts that correspond to four "worlds." This notion of the importance of the number four repeats itself in multiple ways: through assigning a season and mystical attribute to each world, through drinking four cups of wine, and by dividing the foods eaten during the seder (generally a feast of fruits and nuts) into four categories that reflect human nature. Each of these components attempts to coax another level of contemplative thought, creativity, and wonder from seder participants.

Variations on the Theme

The five seder menus below share two key elements of the kabbalistic model:
· One glass of wine served in each "world," moving from all white to all red
· A feast of fruit and nuts that corresponds with the kabbalistic attributes: fruits that are hard/inedible on the outside and soft on the inside in world 1, fruits that are soft on the outside and hard/inedible inside in world 2, fruits that are completely soft/edible in world 3, and no fruit in world 4
Beyond that, they vary widely in personality and presentation. So choose the seder menu that suits your tastes (or create your own) and have a wonderful Tu Bishvat!

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Leah Koenig

Leah Koenig is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Gastronomica, Jewish Living, Lilith, Culinate, Beliefnet and other publications.