March 20, 2023

According to Wikipedia, students of the famous kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria formulated the structure of the first formal Tu BiShvat Seder, which as published as a pamphlet in Venice in 1728.

The Tu BiShvat Seder represents a symbolic reaffirmation of our Jewish connection to the land; a holiday of ecological awareness and a celebration of eating fruits native to Israel (wheat, grapes, barley, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates).

Part of that symbolism is reflected in the the qualities of the fruits of Tu BiShvat: (1) those with a hard outside and soft inside, such as a banana or walnut, (2) those with an edible outside but pit or seeds, such as a date or persimmon and (3) those eaten whole, such as figs or berries.

That symbolism is also reflected in the four cups of wine, representing the four elements of matter (Earth, Water, Air, Fire), the four spheres existence (physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual), as well as the four seasons of nature. The first cup of wine is white, for the snow and cold winter season. The second cup of ⅓ red wine and ⅔ white wine representing the beginning of spring. The third cup of ½ white wine and ½ red wine represents spring with half rainy days and half sunny days. Finally, the fourth Cup of all red wine is for the hot days of summer and the end the agricultural season.

Many thanks to Sam Maurer for the inspiration and background research for this article.

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