19 February 2019

Tu B’Shevat with Rabbi Deb Smith

Outside, freezing winds howl, for the 15th of Shevat is called ‘the cold of winter’ (Babba Metzia 106b): yet inside the tree the first warm fluids of springtime begin their upward flow. There is also a spiritual dimension in this sap, for the word saraf literally means “fire” or “burning energy,” alluding to the sacred sparks contained in abundance in the fruits of the Holy Land. These sparks can ignite (our) souls with a burning desire to rise ever higher and closer to God. Tu B’Shevat is the day when God begins to deposit the first sacred sparks into the trees from where the fruits of the coming year will emerge.

Gathering Music

Niggun (melody without words) led by Rabbi Deb and Neil Smith

A Tu B’Shevat Hagada for P’nai Or

by Rabbi Marcia Prager

Opening Blessing

Rabbi Deb

Master of the Universe
Grant me the ability to be alone
May it be my custom to go outdoors each day
Among the trees and grass, among all the growing things,
And there may I enter into prayer to talk to the One I belong to.
– Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlov

Explanation of the Holiday

Rabbi Deb

The First World

How can we understand with even deeper wisdom, the Flow of God-energy into the world? Come learn! The Flow has four levels: Four “worlds” of Spiritual Energy!

The first is ASSIYAH: the world of doing, physical matter, and earth.

We enter the First World. This is the world of the physical, of making and doing and having; the world of earth and matter. This is the world of separations and distinctions. In Assiyah we become keenly aware of our physical self: So wonderful! Such a gift!

We look around us and we see other extraordinary beings, amazing people, all kinds of creatures, pants, rocks, shells, grains of sand … we know that each is unique … and yet we feel how close we all are to the earth that we come from!

We look around us … We are B’nei Adama: The Children of the Earth! Come learn the Torah (teaching) of Assiyah!

The nuts and fruits of Assiyah have hard, inedible outer shells or skins. These include all kinds of nuts, coconuts, peanuts, pomegranates, oranges, grapefruits.

In the world of Assiyah, we have heightened awareness of our physical fragility. We seek the protection the earth provides: external protection, like the hard nut shells which surround the soft insides, because we know ourselves to be vulnerable. In Assiyah we keep both our physical self and our inner self well defended.

All: As we eat these nuts and fruits we enter the world of protection.

Blessing the wine and Blessing the fruits

Rabbi Deb

Blessing for wine:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam Borei Pri- Ha-Gafen.

Blessing of Fruit:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam Borei Pri Ha-Etz (for fruit and nuts from trees) OR Borei P’ri Ha-Adamah (for fruits from the other greenery or roots)

The Second World


This is the world of feelings and emotions, the world of dreams and the subconscious, the fluid and flowing world of water. In Yetzirah we become aware that there is another realm of consciousness alongside the physical and factual. Deeper meanings lie below the surface of things. In the waters of our subconscious images form and dissolve. We dream. We feel. We have ways of know that do not always lend themselves to rational explanation. From the collective subconscious of our people we tap ancient mythic stories that resonate within us. In Yetzirah we dive into Torah as if into a dream.

In Yetzirah the protection we need is not for our bodies, but for our hearts. It is, after all, a risk to open up, to peel off protective shells. Inside us our feelings flow like streams and are as deep as oceans.

All: We enter into the energy of Yetzirah through its juice or wine and its fruits. Before we taste the fruits of Yetzirah, we Praise the Source of Creation for the fruits of trees and the fruits of the earth.

When a bracha (blessing) is recited before eating, then the act itself become a spiritual undertaking. Through the bracha, the act of eating becomes a contemplative exercise. Just as one can contemplate a flower or a melody, one can contemplate the act of eating. One opens one’s mind completely to the experience of chewing the food, and fills the awareness with the taste and texture. One then eats very slowly, aware of nuance of taste.
– Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

Blessing the Wine and the Fruits

Rabbi Deb

The Third World


We enter into the energy of Briyah through its juice or wine and its fruits.

In Briyah we eat the fruits that need no protection, and are soft throughout.

We have touched the free spirit at our center, and we are wide open. Our souls reach out to one another without fear. Our hearts open to love. Our mind expand with new wisdom, and we float free.

All: We fill our cups for the third time, still darker. The cup of Briyah is red, with a dash of white. Before we drink the cup of Briyah, we praise the Source of Creation for Wine and the Juice of Grapes.

Blessing the Wine and Blessing the Fruits

Rabbi Deb

The Fourth World


Atzilut – the highest level – perfection. All obstacles are gone now as we move closer (atzel) and closer to the Radiant Source. Atzilut is the flame, the fire of Creation Energy, the fire in which all dissolves into the Eternal One.

ALL: Before we drink the cup of Atzilut we praise the Source of Creation for wine and the juice of grapes.

Blessing the Wine

Rabbi Deb

A Fountain of Blessing are you, Life-Breath of Being, our God and Guide, Sourcing Power of Time and Space, who creates the fruit of the vine. The fruit of Atzilut is spiritual perfection. For in this world we enjoy all kinds of heavenly desserts!

Blessing the Fruit and Desserts

A Fountain of Blessing are you, Life-Breath of Being, our Power, Power of Space-Time who creates all kinds of pastries and desserts.

Sung Response and Food Tasting

“And the Trees will Clap their Hands”

Blessing for Endings and New Beginnings

Rabbi Deb

May it come to pass, Holy One, Fountain of Life, Source of All
That by virtue of the fruits we have eaten and blessed, the sparks of Divine Energy in all these fruits will be purified and released into the flow of holiness.

May the trees be charged with a profusion of fruits that grow and flourish, from the beginning of this year until its end, for good, blessings, life and peace. AMEN.

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