“He that planteth a tree is a servant of God, he provideth a kindness for many generations, and faces that he hath not seen shall bless him.”
~Henry Van Dyke
From the Tree of Life that sat in the midst of Eden to the Cedars of Lebanon to the trees in Ezekiel’s vision and John’s revelation of the eternal kingdom whose fruit will be for food and leaves for healing (see Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22), trees are a vital part of the Scriptures. Even a casual reading of the Bible quickly reveals the importance of trees in the Hebrew faith and man’s relationship to the Earth through his relationship with trees. Paul even illustrates the adoption of Gentile nations into Israel under the new covenant with the “cultivated olive tree of Israel”, saying that non-Hebrew people are grafted in branches when they enter the covenant (see Romans 11:17-24).
Through the principles of Bal Tashchit, where we are reminded not to destroy our planet, we find the tree is central to our own well-being. The entirety of the Bal Tashchit ideology is built upon the passage in Deuteronomy 20:19-20, which says, “When you lay siege to a city for a long time, making war against it to capture it, you are not to destroy its trees by swinging an axe at them. For from them you may eat, so you shall not chop them down. For is the tree of the field human, that it should enter the siege before you? You may destroy and chop down only the trees that you know are not trees for food, so that you may build siege equipment against the city that is making war with you until its downfall.”
One thing that very few Christians—even among those who embrace the message of Torah and celebrate the Holy Mo’edim of Scripture—are aware of, however, is the “New Year of Trees” on the Hebrew Calendar called Tu B’Shvat. While certainly not among the Holy Mo’edim or even the minor feasts (Purim and Hanukkah) this is a date that is worthy of consideration because the importance of the tree to human life traces its origins all the way back to the week of Creation itself.
Why A New Year For Trees?
There are those who take exception to any “new year” date on the Hebrew calendar other than the new year that occurs in the month of Nisan, where the Holy Mo’edim are set to begin with the Feast of Passover. While it is not the purpose of this message to go into details about how there are multiple “new year” dates on the Hebrew calendar, it should be noted that there are four dates by which a new year begins for various purposes.
The Mishnah is a part of the Jewish Talmud that is essentially a commentary on Torah given by the Rabbis following the destruction of the Second Temple and exile in Babylon. Originally given as the “oral traditions” it was later compiled and recorded into the document it is today. While not to be considered an authoritative source of information for instructions, it is a valuable historical record of what the Jewish people of that point in history believed—the same overall period of history when Yeshua and the Apostles lived. In the Mishnah Tractate Rosh Hashanah it says:
The four new years are: On the first of Nisan, the new year for the kings and for the festivals; On the first of Elul, the new year for the tithing of animals; Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Shimon say, on the first of Tishrei. On the first of Tishrei, the new year for years, for the Sabbatical years and for the Jubilee years and for the planting and for the vegetables. On the first of Shevat, the new year for the trees according to the words of the House of Shammai; The House of Hillel says, on the fifteenth thereof.
This really should not be an unusual idea, as modern society has multiple “new years” for various occasions. The secular new year begins on January 1st in most parts of the world today. Then, in business, there is a fiscal new year that begins on October 1st. If you have school-age children there is a school year that currently begins in mid-August or early September in most locations. On an individual level, even a birthday is a “new year” celebration. So, as you can see, there are many “heads of the year” for a wide variety of occasions on the calendar. The same is true of the Hebrew calendar. So, there is no need to get alarmed when someone talks about a new year for trees or mentions Rosh Hashanah as the “head of the year” or any other date that begins a new one year cycle for a particular purpose.
The Origins Of Tu B’Shvat
It is unclear when the New Year of Trees concept really originated, but tradition holds that it goes back to ancient times, even as early as Solomon. While there is very little to go on to trace the celebration of Tu B’Shvat to the First Temple Period, the book Trees, Earth, And Torah: A Tu B’Shvat Anthology, perhaps one of the most exhaustive Jewish works on this marked date of the Hebrew calendar, says:
In the late Second Temple period Tu B’Shvat was part of the tithing calendar, which determined when offerings of food, including fruit, were brought to the Temple to celebrate the Source of all abundance and to recycle that abundance to the poor.
What is today a full celebration by many Jewish people that is comparable to the Passover, with a Seder of sorts patterned after the Passover Seder, began as a date marked on the calendar to determine the age of a tree. Why was this important? For the answer to that question we must turn to a specific commandment given in Torah.
“When you come into the land and have planted all kinds of trees for food, you are to consider their fruit as forbidden. Three years it will be forbidden to you. It is not to be eaten. Then in the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, for giving praise to Adonai. In the fifth year you may eat its fruit. So it will yield its increase to you. I am Adonai your God.”
~Leviticus 19:23-25 (TLV)
The date was set because of the commandments pertaining to the first four years of the life of a tree. Since it was commanded not to touch the fruit of the first three years and then offer all the fruit of the fourth year to God, the date now known as Tu B’Shvat was used to determine fruit that appeared during the first three years, fruit of the fourth year, and then fruit that appeared after the fourth year had concluded. In addition to this, a tithe was offered on all of the fruit of a tree after it reached the fifth year, and the date of Tu B’Shvat was used as a new year of tithing as well.
While there is seemingly no records available, or at least none that I am currently aware of, stating what the date of Tu B’Shvat may have been prior to the time of Shammai and Hillel, we know from the passage cited above from the Mishnah that it was ultimately determined this date would be set in the Hebrew month of Shevat. It also appears the House of Hillel won in the end since today the celebration is held on the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, which falls anywhere from the middle of January to the middle of February on the modern Gregorian calendar.
This should be particularly encouraging for the Christian who takes an interest in this date as the Apostle Paul was trained under the House of Hillel and it appears that it was this school of first century Jewish thought that the first century followers of Yeshua were more in agreement with between the two primary schools of thought. There are even a number of scholars who believe Yeshua was Himself a Pharisee under Hillel, and those Pharisees we always see Him rebuking in the Gospel records were of the House of Shammai. Another example of the conflict between these two house, which I brought up in my article Get Up Peter! Kill And Eat!, it was a ruling by the House of Shammai that forbade Jewish people to go to the home of a Gentile to dine, which is what God was telling Peter was wrong through the vision in Acts 10.
A Focus On Earthcare
Today the celebration of Tu B’Shvat has grown into a holiday that centers on caring for the Earth—the planet we live on. As the secular world increasingly focuses on the concept of “going green”, so too there are movements among groups of Christians and Jews to incorporate principles from the Bible to properly maintaining the living ecosystems and natural resources of our planet. Author Michael Lerner says in his book Jewish Renewal: A Path To Healing And Transformation:
This minor holiday commemorating the new year of the trees has recently become a Jewish-renewal ecology festival. Following customs developed by the Hasidim, contemporary renewers of the tradition have created Tu B’Shvat seders at which various kinds of fruits and nuts of late winter are consumed, and discussion focuses on the challenge to protect and honor the earth.
Now, before I go much further I want to point out that a lot of the celebration of Tu B’Shvat today was developed through kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, which is not the same as biblical Judaism and, from a Christian perspective, seems to cross into some very concerning views and practices. As such, there are a number of traditions that have developed that are probably best avoided. I do not want to get into detail about these things at this time, as some of them include teachings and beliefs that get into sexuality and other such controversial topics.
This poses the question: Can there be a Judeo-Christian application for this minor holiday on the Hebrew calendar? I believe there can be! Consider what Lerner says regarding how today this holiday has become an ecology festival. There is seemingly nothing wrong with holding a simple fellowship with the traditional Tu B’Shvat seder foods, devotionals, and prayers that draws attention and discussion to the care of Yahweh’s Creation. In many ways, upon eliminating the mysticism and kabbalah, this becomes something of a Bible-based Earth Day or Arbor Day.
Think of it like the Christian celebration of Christmas. Clearly many of the modern traditions of Christmas originate with pagan religion, and should be shunned. And while there is pretty much no justifiable reason to celebrate the Nativity of Messiah on December 25th, the reality is that if the ONLY thing Christians did on this date was celebrate the Nativity—no decorated trees or wreaths, no secular carols, and absolutely no Santa Claus—I doubt very many people would be complaining and calling Christmas a pagan festival. It would also be a whole lot easier for Christians to transition their Nativity celebration to a more appropriate time of the year—which I believe is the Feast of Tabernacles—if the only thing they celebrated on December 25th was the Nativity event. The same is true of a Judeo-Christian approach to Tu B’Shvat as a time to renew our focus each year on our core human mission from Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:15 to care for and steward our God’s Creation without embracing kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. And unlike Christmas, at least Tu B’Shvat can be traced back to a Torah commandment.
One thing I often point out when dealing with topics of a Bible-based Earthcare is there are two important passages to consider. Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that the primary purpose God created humans is to be His stewards for the proper care of all His Creation. Revelations 11:18 warns us that at the end of the age God is going to destroy the destroyers of the Earth. A celebration of Tu B’Shvat reminds us, as Believers in Yahweh, followers of Yeshua, and recipients of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), that we have a God-given responsibility and even an obligation to take care of all life on the planet He gave us.
Since Tu B’Shvat is the new year of trees, the natural ecological focus of the celebration begins with the tree. Consider this eloquent segment from Ellen Bernstein’s message Land, Community, and Sprawl as documented in the book Torah of the Earth Vol. 2:
Composing our landscape, trees comprise our culture. It’s probably not surprising, then, that trees held a special place in the Jewish imagination. They are the symbol of life and sustenance. The Torah is described as a “tree of life” to those who hold her dear; the Garden of Eden is noted for its two trees in the center, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Significant biblical events are marked by the trees which stood by as witnesses. God appeared to Abraham by the terebinths of Mamre (Gen. 18:1). The greatest biblical love poem, the Song of Songs, is filled with images of trees. So are the psalms. There are trees clapping hands, trees providing food and shelter for all the animals. There are willows, palms, myrtle and etrog, whose branches and fruits are required to celebrate Sukkot.
Trees are special in and of themselves, but they were even more significant in the context of the ecosystems of which they are a part. Ezekiel’s description of a rebuilt, Edenic Temple gives a magical sense of this rich and diverse ecosystem with trees at the center. His paradisic vision of the Land transformed (Ezek. 47:1-12) included a riparian habitat with gigantic trees growing along the banks. “All kinds of trees for food will grow up on both banks of the stream. Their leaves will not wither and their fruits will not fail; they will yield fruit each month. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
Ecologically speaking, trees are the heart of this paradise ecosystem. They shape the stream, holding the banks in place. They shade the stream, keeping temperatures constant and providing food for fishes and other water creatures. They bind the soil and build the soil. Without trees, the land is subjected to the eroding forces of wind and water. The soil blows away leaving a dry and wasted land, and it runs off into streams causing turbid, murky water, and limiting plant productivity.
From the Tree of Life in the midst of Eden to the trees Ezekiel saw in his vision of the future Temple whose fruit would be for food and leaves for healing, the tree appears to be the quintessential source of all God’s provision for His Creation. A world without trees would be a world of desolation. And so the celebration of a new year for the trees is ultimately a celebration of a new year of God’s provision to the totality of His Creation.
We Are All Written Into God’s Eternal Torah
In January 1997, more than 200 Jews gathered in far northern California to create and eat together the sacred meal of fruits and nuts and wines that celebrates Tu B’Shvat – the New Year of the Trees. They had gathered in a grove of ancient redwood trees. The redwoods stood above them, silent in their majesty – 250 feet tall and more. They were, they are, the tallest living beings on dry land.
The celebrants intended to complete the seder by walking illegally onto the land of a corporation that was planning to log some of the last remaining stand of ancient redwoods that are in private hands. There they would plant redwood seedlings and risk arrest for trespass.
At this Redwoods seder, one of the editors of this volume, Naomi Mara Hyman, looked up at those great trees and said: “What would a Torah Scroll be like that had these eitzim [‘trees’] for its eitzim [the wooden poles that hold the spiraling Torah scroll]? How grand, how tall would such a Torah be!” Then, looking at the crowd who had come to celebrate the seder, she said: “Each of us would be just the right size to be one letter in such a Torah Scroll!”
And that is what we are, of course: each one of us is a letter in God’s great Torah Scroll of all life on the planet. Yet being a letter is not enough. Nowhere in the Torah does a single letter stand alone to bear some meaning. In English, the word “I” is but a single letter, standing alone; but in Hebrew, even the word for “I” has several letters. No one, not even “I,” can stand alone.
When one person, one corporation, like the corporation that claimed to own those redwoods, thinks it is a single letter that can stand alone, that single letter concentrates such energy that the letter turns to an engulfing flame, while all the words around it are reduced to paltry parchment – and to ashes. So the great Torah Scroll, the earth and the society in which we live, begins to burn. It is a community of lives – not an isolated life – that makes up words, verses, books of wisdom in the living Torah made of earth and air, wood and water.
The community of Jews that gathered in the ancient redwoods to live within that giant Torah Scroll came because they also live within the other ancient Torah, the weave of wisdom that Jewish tradition often calls the Tree of Life. If it were not for that Torah, there would be no Tu B’Shvat; no seder; no gathering of Jews to affirm that these trees were God’s and should not be wantonly destroyed.
Which of these Trees of Life encompasses the other? Does the Jewish Torah live as one thread of human culture in the human strand of all species that make up the weave of the earth? Or do we see the forest and a “forest” because it lives with us within the weave of words and melodies, dances and desires, that human beings – in this case, Jewish human beings – use to recreate the world?
Each. Both. At moments of our history, our spiritual journey we have focused on one tree or the other. The mystics of Tzfat saw every earthly tree as simply fruit of the Tree Divine whose roots are in the heavens. The Zionist kindergarten teachers of Tel Aviv saw a notion of the Mystic Tree as a mystification to be healed by rerooting Jewish life in green earth.
We need to affirm them both. We need to call forth a Tu B’Shvat that affirms both Trees, affirms that the abundance that each grows from cannot keep flowing without the abundance of the other. The Tree of Life in scrolls of Torah, the living Torah inscribed in redwood majesty – the Jewish people, and the human race, will wither if we do not renew them both.
Let me first reiterate, again, that it is not my intent to promote kabbalah or Jewish mysticism of any kind. However, regardless of where the author of this story stands on such issues, what is presented here is a fascinating concept visualized in the midst of the redwoods.
If you have every visited the redwood forests you are certainly familiar with the magnitude of these massive trees that tower over Creation. I once had the opportunity to visit the redwood forest in Yosemite National Park and was in awe by the size of these massive trees. I can certainly relate to the thought expressed in this story of the redwoods being as the wooden poles to which the ends of a Torah scroll are attached. Compared to the size of a redwood tree a human person would be about the scale size of a single letter in the written text of a Torah scroll.
You may be inclined to think at this point, “So, you are saying I am but a mere character on the Torah scroll of eternity?” But I would remind you of the words of our Messiah Yeshua, the Torah made flesh (John 1:1, 14), who said, “I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass” (Matthew 5:18). That shows just how important a single character in the text of the Torah is, which should show just how important you are on the metaphorical Torah of eternity.
A Christian Response To Ecological Crisis
It is no secret today that our world faces an ecological crisis that, if not corrected, may cross into a point of no return. Human population continues to grow and some estimates claim that in less than 500 years from now there may not be enough habitable land to accommodate humanity.
Some are answering this crisis by searching for another planet within the “habitable zone” of its host star. But even if such a planet is identified, another challenge presents itself: How do we get there? Not just how we get there, but also how we establish all of the necessary factors for life on such a planet. After all, there needs to be established ecosystems that provide the biodiversity for the balance of life. There must also be diverse plant and animal life established that creates the balance of life for the new planet similar to that which was established during the Creation record in Genesis 1. Notice in Genesis 1 that all life was created systematically by creating first the element that what was created the next day needed for its survival.
Others have proposed the idea of establishing life on Mars. There are theories being seriously considered about the idea of establishing an atmosphere on the “red planet” that could create a habitable climate.
But these ideas, even if they can be accomplished, are still a long time off. We cannot afford to sit around and wait for those researching these things to figure out a way to make all of this work. Our planet is in demise now, and it is our fault. We, the human population of this planet as a whole, have systematically destroyed our planet during the past one hundred or so years of the age of technology.
We have created landfills of waste that are highly toxic and not biodegradable. We have created an onslaught of raw sewage that pollutes the world around us. We have created motor vehicles that run on harmful fuel products when earth-friendly options have long been an option. We, humanity as a whole, have chosen to ignore the commandments of God’s Torah that are the only real key to creating a sustainable Earth.
If you have not done so already, I recommend reading my articles Laws Of Creation, The Divine Order Of Creation, and Embracing Creation: Fulfilling Your Destiny In The Earth. In these messages I address head on the need for a Christian ecology ethic focused on caring for our God’s Creation. Along with these three messages, I also recommend my article Bal Tashchit: Do Not Destroy where I address the concept of Creation care from a perspective of Jewish faith. You may wonder why it is important to look at Jewish thought, but I will remind you that Christianity is a Jewish/Hebrew faith and the original Christians were actually Jews who identified as a Jewish sect.
Hyun-Chul Cho presents four propositions in his thesis titled An Ecological Vision Of The World: Toward A Christian Ecological Theology For Our Age. After making several observations related to the problem of the current ecological crisis, he states:
The Main Proposition: A Christian perspective on the world provides an ecological vision of the world that awakens and cultivates ecological consciousness in human beings in the age of the global ecological crisis.
Proposition I: A Christian perspective on the world shows that all the finite beings in the world are interrelated and interdependent.
Proposition II: A Christian perspective on the world shows that all the finite beings in the world have their own intrinsic, though not absolute, value.
Proposition III: A Christian perspective on the world shows concern for nature that is compatible with concern for the poor.
To summarize these points, all life on Earth is required for all other life on Earth to continue and it is our responsibility as the God-appointed stewards of Creation (Genesis 1:26-28) to maintain the balance of all life on Earth. If humanity continues down the humanist path of senselessly consuming the Earth’s resources for our own pleasures and conveniences, it will not be too much longer before the whole thing implodes and we create that post-apocalyptic world of science fiction.
As Believers of Judeo-Christian faith, whether you identify as Christian, Catholic, Jewish, or Messianic, we have a Scriptural mandate to take care of the planet we live on. This mandate supersedes all other commandments in the Torah in that it is the first commandment and one of only three total dictates given prior to the fall, the others being to be fruitful and multiply and to refrain from eating from a single tree in the midst of The Garden known as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Perhaps the major obstacle to Believers fulfilling the mandate to take care of the planet today is the deception that people believe that they believe in God while not actually believing in God. Confused? If a person really believed that God is God—that the God of the Bible is truly the God of Creation and the God of the Universe—than there would be no question of obedience. A person who really believes that God is God needs no reason to obey the Bible other than the simple knowledge that God said it and that God is God.
In Hebrew culture, which is supposed to be the culture of Christianity, there is a phrase: “Zos chukas haTorah”. It comes from the first part of Numbers 19:2 and simply means, “These are the decrees of Torah”. The purpose of the phrase is to remind us that if God said it, that’s all that needs to be known. Further there is a category of mitzvot (the instructions found in God’s Torah) called “chukim”, and these are commandments that seemingly have no explainable reason as to why they were given. While many breakthroughs in science and medicine have revealed possible reasons behind many commandments previously considered to be without a logical reason, some of them obeyed through the concept of “chukim” by the Jewish people and rejected as obsolete by Christians who don’t understand them, we should never require a reason behind a commandment of God. The put it another way, when a commandment of God is given, reason is never required.
If you really believe God is God, that is the only reason you need to obey anything commanded in The Bible. And no, you don’t have a right to use The Bible to override The Bible. A vague statement cannot be used to abrogate a clear commandment.
Certainly we should not need a reason to take care of the planet our God made for us to live on. The very fact that the Earth is our home should be reason enough to care for it, but more than that we should care for the planet because it is the Creation of Yahweh our God. But we also need to come to a realization that every commandment in the Torah has some application to the care of the planet.
A Christian Approach To Tu B’Shvat
One of the biggest objections to the celebration of this holiday on the Hebrew calendar is that it is not found anywhere in the Bible. Another is that there appears to be a lot of Jewish mysticism through teachings out of kabbalah involved in the more strongly Jewish celebrations of the day. But do either of these prohibit Christian Believers in the Creator from celebrating a day that has come to be known as a time to focus on our efforts to preserve and protect His Creation?
Christians are a funny group of people when you really think about it. They will celebrate holidays that are not at all Scriptural and come straight out of pagan religions (Christmas, Easter, and even Halloween, for example), but if they are presented with something that is connected with the Bible they shun it as “Jewish” and therefore not something that we should do as Christians. This is, of course, part of the backwards mindset that has developed among modern Christianity through the lies of Replacement Theology.
All of the Biblical mo’edim—Holy Days—are really agricultural festivals at their core, where the provision of the Earth was celebrated and thanksgiving offered to the Creator for that which He supplied. While the two minor feasts of Purim and Hanukkah do not really share this same characteristic, the Jewish New Year of Trees does take us back again to the celebration of God’s provision. This is not in the same way as the Major Spring and Fall Feasts, which celebrated the harvest of their labor. Rather Tu B’Shvat celebrates what Creation itself provides to us with or without the intervention of man. At Tu B’Shvat we honor both the domestic and the wild harvest.
I find it very interesting also that there is a date on the Hebrew calendar—God’s calendar—where the focus is to protect and preserve life and where one of the common traditions is the planting of trees. You see, what is the climax of the Christian year in most non-Torah-focused ministries? Of course, it is the celebration of Christmas. And what is the top tradition of Christmas? To cut down an evergreen tree and set it inside the home as a centerpiece for a celebration that claims to commemorate the birth of Yeshua.
When the holiday is over, the tree is tossed out as refuse. Wasted, destroyed, and cast away. Is this the way we should honor the Creator as Christians? Cutting down a tree from His Creation? Destroying a habitat and a home for birds and squirrels and various insects? All to do things that the Bible plainly commands against, such as idol worship and worshiping God in the same way pagan people worship their gods.
Can there be a Christian approach to a purely Jewish holiday that isn’t at all mentioned in the Bible? Well, I think if so many Christians are OK celebrating things like Christmas and Easter, holidays that appear to have strong ties to pagan religions, then there should be no argument against the celebration of such a small and little known holiday that sets itself as a standard for Bible-based environmental restoration. And as I have mentioned, Tu B’Shvat is born out of a commandment from Yahweh’s Torah. Christmas and Easter were born in direct violation of a commandment from Yahweh’s Torah to not practice pagan religion or use it in worship to our God.
While I endorse and promote the movement away from the unbiblical pagan holidays of the world long embraced by Christianity and a return to the celebrations of the Bible, I also believe that there is a Tu B’Shvat for the Christian who understands that God created human beings for the sole purpose of caring for the rest of His Creation. Because Tu B’Shvat is a date set in place for purposes of Torah-obedience and has since evolved into a date to focus on the natural environment around us, it seems only fitting to commemorate it as we begin to think toward the coming springtime.
Celebrating Tu B’Shvat
In Jewish tradition the celebration of the New Year of Trees has developed into the incorporation of a Seder modeled in some ways after the Pesach Seder conducted during the Feast of Passover. Now, considering that I do not wholly endorse the Pesach Seder, I certainly do not claim that a Tu B’Shvat Seder is any type of requirement. Both are nice ceremonies and are not anything I advise against, I just don’t treat them as any type of requirement either. That said, I do want to share some thoughts about conducting a Seder for Tu B’Shvat.
In the Seder for Tu B’Shvat a set of various fruits and nuts are set out. It is preferable to use those specific to the trees central to Israel that are listed in the Torah. These include olives, dates, grapes, figs, almonds, and pomegranate. While these are the most significant of the tree fruits, any fruits and nuts would be acceptable for this celebration. In addition, as is customary with all of the Biblical Feasts, you will also want to provide the wine (grape juice) and bread (challah bread is customary to all Biblical Feasts with the exception of Passover/Unleavened Bread, and so seems preferable here as well) to those participating in the service.
There are also blessings that are spoken over the wine (grape juice), the fruits, the bread, and a shehechiyanu blessing. These blessings are as follows:
Blessing For The Wine (Grape Juice): Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Blessing For The Fruit: Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.
Shehechiyahu Blessing: Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who gave us life and kept us and delivered us to this time.
Blessings For The Bread And Grains: Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the Earth. Blessed are you Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who provides all kinds of foods.
In addition to reciting the blessings, it is also advisable to select Scriptures from Torah to recite during the service. For Messianic followers of Yeshua, we can also include a passage or two with the words of our Messiah as recorded in the gospels, since He is the Torah made flesh to tabernacle among us. Here are a few that may work well.
Genesis 1:11 (TLV) Then God said, “Let the land sprout grass, green plants yielding seed, fruit trees making fruit, each according to its species with seed in it, upon the land.” And it happened so.
Genesis 1:29-30 (TLV) Then God said, “I have just given you every green plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the whole land, and every tree, which has the fruit of a tree yielding seed. They are to be food for you. Also for every wild animal, every flying creature of the sky and every creature that crawls on the land which has life, every green plant is to be food.” And it happened so.
Deuteronomy 8:7-10 (TLV) For Adonai your God is bringing you into a good land—a land of wadis with water, of springs and fountains flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey, a land where you will eat bread with no poverty, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. So you will eat and be full, and you will bless Adonai your God for the good land He has given you.
Matthew 7:16-18 (TLV) “You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes aren’t gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree produces good fruit, but the rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit.”
John 15:5 (TLV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
There are guides available to help in conducting a Tu B’Shvat Seder, if that is something you are interested in, but many of these guides contain the influences of mysticism out of kabbalah, which again is something that I do not endorse. I personally would not really recommend anything more than setting out the fruits of Tu B’Shvat seder and conducting a simple service reciting the above blessings and Scriptures. You may even limit it to printing out the above prayers and displaying them with the fruit and nut spread for the date of Tu B’Shvat and leaving it at that. At the conclusion of the brief service just open up the gathering to a discussion about caring for the environment while enjoying the fruits and nuts that are set out. I would not go any further toward a full Seder than that, but that is merely what I advise. This is not a celebration commanded by Torah and there is not a set format on how to celebrate it, so it should be your choice on how to approach this unique holiday.
Another great practice for Tu B’Shvat would be to plant a tree in your yard or as a community at your Church or Fellowship. This may not be possible in many areas where the winter months are simply too cold and have other weather challenges. However, you could obtain a potted tree for the holiday and tend it until the weather breaks and a more appropriate time for planting arrives. One idea, particularly in those colder regions, might be to dedicate the tree to God and the furthering of His Creation during Tu B’Shvat and then plant the tree during Shavuot (The Day of Pentecost), one of the Holy Mo’edim where trees are also a part of the focus and where the Spring Feast season comes to a close.
To conclude this message, I want to share with you a poem I found on the wall at the visitor’s center of an arboretum I have visited several times in the past. If you are not aware of what an arboretum is, it is something similar to a park but where there is a strong emphasis on the care of trees. Arboretums are actually very ideal places to visit during Tu B’Shvat and conduct your service at, assuming you live in a region where an outdoor celebration of the holiday is feasible. This poem, or others like it, may also be worthy of reading during your Tu B’Shvat gathering.
A Tree – James P. Lukens “The Buckeye Poet”
is more than just a tree.
gives us shade from solar heat.
There goes another tree
to serve as shelter for you and me.
to humanity of every creed,
be mindful God gave us so many trees
That’s why we need to seed and reseed
and plant and replant a hundred million trees
‘cause, you see, a tree
is more than just a tree.
A tree is something to behold.
Some are spindly, young, and others
Oh so very old,
they die and return to earth
where they’ll produce barrels and barrels
of scarce black gold.
And then again
there are skinny ones
with branches thin
and some quite short
with sticky limbs.
So it matters not
how large or small
or fat or tall,
‘cause a tree is more
than just a piece of wood.
Next time we pray
or sing a hymn
let’s thank God,
for a tree is more than just a tree
with outstretched limbs.
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