Tu B’Shvat is an ancient celebration of the new year for trees. It has changed and evolved over twenty centuries, and has never been more vital or significant than it is today. We live in an era in which sustainable forestry is more widely practiced than ever before, yet deforestation is a powerful driver of climate change and loss of biodiversity. Trees play important roles in some of the most challenging environmental issues of our time, and the way we use them is important, even in ways you might not expect. For a simple example: saving paper does not just “save trees,” but also prevents burning fossil fuels in transportation and processing.
The resources below, including the Hazon Tu B’Shvat Haggadah, offer thoughts and ideas to help you celebrate Tu B’Shvat in your home or community. The texts, questions, activities, and suggestions below can serve as guides for viewing Tu B’Shvat through fresh eyes and recontextualizing the tradition.
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The Hazon Tu B’Shvat Haggadah is designed to help you think about your responsibility towards the natural world in relation to four different levels: physical place, community, world, and spirituality. Each section of the haggadah will relate to one of these four levels of responsibility, and offers texts, questions, and activities to spark conversation around your seder table. Our updated 2017 haggadah is available in PDF format so you may print as few or as many copies as you need.
Be sure to print with your settings set for landscape and double-sided on the short side. This will result in 10 pages which you can fold and staple in the middle. Or you can purchase pre-printed copies of the Haggadah in packs of five.
Download Hazon’s Tu B’Shvat Seder Leader’s Guide. Our guide contains tips for preparation, leading an engaging seder and making it your own.
Download Hazon’s Tu B’Shvat Family Seder for families with school age kids. Complete with games and family friendly language, our abbreviated family seder is perfect for the all ages table.
Tu B’Shvat is a great time to start a garden, with sufficient time to start growing so that you can put the garden to use during Pesach! So, take the time during this holiday to plant with the family and enjoy home grown fruits and veggies. If you don’t have a place to garden, there are plenty of ways to grow veggies and plants indoors. Check out ways to start your indoor garden from a gardening expert!
Use Tu B’Shvat to test your knowledge on local, environmental issues. Allow Tu B’Shvat to open a door to finding more about your local habitat and ways to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. You can start thinking about your impact by calculating your ecological footprint.
This year, Tu B’shvat leads to Purim and thence to Pesach, on successive full moons. This period will be a time that we think about Jewish tradition as eitz chayim hi, the tree of life that sustains us.
This Tu B’Shvat, we invite you to take action for the planet.
- Applications are now open for the 2017 Hazon Seal of Sustainability. The Hazon Seal is a roadmap for Jewish institutions to become more sustainable by enabling improvements related to food, facilities, and healthy ecosystems.
- On April 29th, there is a major People’s Climate Mobilization in Washington, DC. Sign up to learn more about the Jewish delegation to the People’s Climate March.
- One of the people who will need to be approved by the new Congress is Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the proposed new head of the EPA. More than 500 organizations, including Hazon, have signed a statement rejecting Scott Pruitt as the EPA head. Learn more about questioning Pruitt’s nomination.
- As we come off the warmest year in recent human history, we’re happy to be working directly with 350.org. We want to encourage Jewish people, as Jewish people, to join and get involved in their local 350.org chapters to take action for the environment on the state and local level.
We’ve compiled a great selection of music for you to make your seder a more multi-faceted experience. Our Haggadah and Leader’s Guide have suggestions of when to use these songs and we invite you to integrate any or all of these songs in to your seder.
Harachaman by Rabbi David Seidenberg
The words of this blessing were written by Rabbi David Seidenberg. Nili Simhai made it into a singable liturgy by setting the words to the “Sosne Nigun” by Jonah Adels, z”l. Harachaman blessings come after the main part of the blessing after the meals, and they ask for special blessings, including blessings related to Shabbat and holidays. Sing it at your Tu B’Shvat seder and at every meal this whole Shmita year! Click here for words and melody.
Tu B’Shvat Recipes
If you prefer whole fruit, add the oranges to cooled soup.
- 4 cups dry red or rose wine (or 2½ cups fruity dry white or rose wine and 1½ cups dry red wine)
- 2 pints fresh or 40 ounces frozen raspberries or cherries
- 44 ounces canned mandarin oranges
- 1½ cups orange juice or water
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 2 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon (optional)
Bring all ingredients to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally.
Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve warm or chilled.
Variation: To thicken soup with cornstarch — Omit tapioca. Dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in ½ cup water; stir into boiling soup; and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until clear.
5 medium (3 cups/720 ml) navel oranges or tangerines, peeled and segmented
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced (1½ cups/360 ml)
1 head romaine or butter lettuce or 1 bunch spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
About 5 cups greens, such as 2 bunches watercress, 2 bunches radicchio, or 6 ounces (170 grams) baby arugula, torn into bite-size pieces
- ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
- ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
- ¼ cup (60 ml) fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) honey or sugar or ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh or ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) dried rosemary, basil, cilantro, mint, or thyme or ½ to 1 teaspoon (2.5 to 5 ml) ground cumin
- ¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh mint or cilantro (optional)
Divide the lettuce and watercress between serving plates or place on large platter.
Toss together the oranges and onions and place on greens.
Combine all the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad.
Variations: Add 2 peeled and sliced avocados, 2 cups sliced cooked beets, 1½ cups chopped pitted dates, 1 sliced large bulb fennel, 1 pound julienned peeled jicama, or 20 to 24 pitted and sliced black olives.
- 1 pound (2 2/3 cups) instant couscous (not Israeli style)
- 4 cups boiling water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup (½ stick) butter or margarine, melted
- ¾ cup (3.5 ounces) raisins
- ¾ cup (5 ounces) chopped pitted dates
- ¾ cup (3.5 ounces) chopped dried apricots
- ¾ cup (3.75 ounces) chopped blanched almonds
- ¾ cup (3 ounces) chopped walnuts or 1/3 cup pine nuts
- about 2 cups almond milk or hot milk
- additional ground cinnamon for garnish
Pour boiling water over couscous. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
Stir the sugar and cinnamon into the butter. Pour over the couscous, tossing to coat. Stir in the raisins, dates, apricots, almonds, and pine nuts. Gradually add enough of the almond milk to moisten the couscous.
Mound the couscous on a large platter and sprinkle with the additional cinnamon.
Host a sustainable Tu B’Shvat Seder.
Joining family and friends, host a seder using the Hazon Tu B’Shvat haggadah and sourcebook! Below are some suggestions on how to create an environmentally sustainable celebration.
Bake Sustainable Tu B’Shvat Challah. Get creative with your challah by adding one, or many, of the seven species. To get really creative, try decorating your challah with a free-formed pomegranate out of dough.
Serve local, organic wine. The Tu B’Shvat seder emphasizes the use of both red and white wines. Find out ahead of time what your local wine store has in stock—especially if you plan to buy a lot of bottles. If they don’t have anything, ask them to order a case for you. There aren’t many kosher organic wines available, but for options see our list of kosher organic wines. Consider paying a little more at a locally-owned store—sustainable means supporting local businesses, too.
Go Vegetarian! Tu B’Shvat is a great time to celebrate the environment and all of its natural offerings. What a better way to do that by eating vegetarian! For some great winter soup options, check out this great JCarrot article. Here are some creative vegan options.
Eat Local. If you live in an area with a variety of seasonal, winter offerings, use this to your advantage by eating local. In the south, citrus fruits are in season and can provide a great addition to the Tu B’Shvat celebration: try citrus curls in your drinks, lemon curd for desert, or roast chicken with oranges and lemons inside.
Reuse and Recycle. In modern times, Tu B’Shvat has been transformed into a holiday embracing nature, which allows us to focus our intentions on many environmental areas. In addition to supporting sustainable eating, try to cut down waste by using reusable, or compostable, dishes and recycle when possible. For resources and suggestions, visit the Hazon Food Guide.
Compost! Collect leftover fruit and vegetable scraps from your Tu B’Shvat seder and add them to your compost pile (or bring them to a composting facility). You’re kicking off the new year of the trees by contributing to soil fertility and the cycles of life!
SUSTAINABLE SEVEN SPECIES
For many people in the US, the seven species are not in season locally. If possible, buy organic varieties of the dried versions, and use some of the suggestions below to make your Tu B’Shvat more sustainable.
Wheat and Barley. To feature sustainable grains during your Tu B’Shvat seder, look to your local grain coop. In the New York area, Cayuga Pure Organics offers a wide variety of organic, sustainably grown products. Down south, Great River Milling offers whole wheat, organic flours perfect for baking a Tu B’Shvat challah. If finding a local grain coop isn’t an option, try to buy organic wheat flour or barley from artisanal companies such as Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur Flour.
Grapes. Though grapes are not available seasonally in the winter, grapes come in many forms! Try serving an organic wine at your seder, in addition to grape jellies and raisins.
Figs, Pomegranates, and Dates. For most people in the United States, figs and pomegranates aren’t available locally in the winter. Instead of offering fresh varieties of figs and pomegranates, opt for jam, jellied, or dried forms. If you can get your hands on some fresh figs, try preparing this “fig newton” recipe that is a healthier alternative to the store bought version. For United States grown dates, check out Sun Date’s offerings, which are grown locally in California.
Olives. Believe it or not, the peak of the olive season in the United States is during the winter! Olives are harvested from November to January in California. In California, The California Olive offers a wide variety of oils featured at local farmer’s markets.
Tu B’Shvat (Hebrew: ט״וּ בִּשְׁבָט, Tu Bee-Shvat) is a Jewish holiday in the Hebrew month of Shvat, usually sometime in late January or early February, that marks the “New Year of the Trees” (Hebrew:ראש השנה לאילנות, Rosh HaShanah La’Ilanot). Tu B’Shvat is one of four “New Years” mentioned in the Mishnah. Customs include planting trees and eating dried fruits and nuts, especially figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree, which grows wild around the country, coincides with Tu B’Shvat.
In the Middle Ages, Tu B’Shvat was celebrated with a feast of fruits in keeping with the Mishnaic description of the holiday as a “New Year.” In the 1600s, the kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed and his disciples instituted a Tu B’Shvat seder in which the fruits and trees of the Land of Israel were given symbolic meaning. The main idea was that eating ten specific fruits and drinking four cups of wine in a specific order while reciting the appropriate blessings would bring human beings, and the world, closer to spiritual perfection.
In Israel, the kabbalistic Tu B’Shvat seder has been revived, and is now celebrated by many Jews, religious and secular. Special haggadot have been written for this purpose.
In modern times, many Jewish organizations, including Hazon, have connected Tu B’Shvat to the issues on sustainability and environmental awareness. This year, we would like to have Tu B’Shvat Shabbat tables across America discussing sustainability and environmental issues. Hazon can help you plan a menu and prepare text for discussion.
Beyond the Four Worlds
Read Nigel Savage’s piece, “Beyond ‘The Four Worlds’: Creating Meaning in Your Tu B’Shvat Seder”
G-dcast is an educational media company that makes accessible and entertaining media, including animated shorts, feature-length films and games, that introduce viewers to core Jewish texts. They’ve created a Tu B’Shvat cartoon and free curricula to accompany the video. Visit G-dcast’s home.
Fair Trade Tu B’Shvat Seder
Download our Long Island CSA Fair Trade Tu B’Shvat Seder, compiled by the Hazon Long Island CSA. This “How-to” guide gives great suggestions on ways to have a Tu B’Shvat Seder which incorporates important topics like food justice. This gives you the tools that you need to host a Tu B’Shvat Seder with a focus on the environmental benefits of fair trade!
Suggestions from Fair Trade Judaica:
- Host a Tu B’Shvat seder focusing on the environmental benefits of fair trade (Download the Long Island Hazon CSA “How-to” guide for a Fair Trade seder)
- Use fair trade certified dried dates, almonds, and walnuts at your Tu B’Shvat seder
Check out more Tu B’Shvat resources from our friends at COEJL – The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
My Jewish Learning – Tu B’Shvat 101
More Jew & the Carrot articles concerning Tu B’Shvat: