Deuteronomy 20:19 says “man is as a tree of the field,” and we are grateful for what we can learn from trees and for how they sustain our lives. The Jewish calendar includes a New Year of the Tree, whose festivities include special food and drink from various kinds of trees, at the full moon in the middle of winter when the sap starts to rise, about six weeks before spring.
A variety of dried fruits and nuts celebrate three modes of being in the world, each appropriate under different circumstances. The first kind of fruit is tree-nuts, which have a hard outer shell but a soft, consumable interior. The second kind of fruit has a soft, sweet outside but needs reinforcement around its heart, such as dates, and everything in the peach / plum family. The third kind of fruit, which is like being transparent to one’s environment, includes pears, figs, apples, raisins, and the fruit-pods of the carob-tree.
The ceremony also includes four cups of kosher grape-juice/wine, in colors corresponding to concepts such as the the Four Directions, which in Daniel 7:2 are called the “Four Winds”; and which in Isaiah 11:12 are called the Four Corners of the Earth. They also symbolize the four seasons.
The original text contains the Seven Species of fruits and grains in Deuteronomy 8:8, that are from the Holy Land and that we enjoy worldwide today.
This year, the Jewish New Year of the Trees falls on Sunday evening, February 9, 2020 through the daylight hours of Monday, February 10.
Observation of the date is one of the four New Years in the Jewish Calendar, and is more than two thousand years old. The ceremony in the variants we know now was developed by a circle of mystics in 16th-century Tz’fat (Safed), Israel. A text sourced from it, based on the “Four Worlds” of Jewish mysticism, can be found at http://opensiddur.org/2013/01/seder-roshhashanah-lailan-a-fourworlds-seder-for-tu-bishvat/ .
This is not the same Seder as the one for Passover, which this year is two months later. There are, in fact, a variety of Seder ceremonies from the traditional Jewish mystics of 16thcentury Safed, throughout the year. Some traditional “New Year of the Tree” ceremonies can include as many as 15 or more kinds of dried fruits and nuts in each category, including exotic varieties such as Chinese “cherry apple,” quince, jujubes, and hawthorne apple.
The holiday is traditionally called by the Jewish mystics “Rosh HaShanah L’Ilan,” “The New Year of the Tree”; or Tu B’Shvat, meaning “the fifteenth of the month of Sh’vat.”
To attend, register in advance by contacting the JCIC (Jewish Center of Indian Country) at (405) 466-5234.