How to Organize a Successful Tu b’Shevat Seder

Premise

There are several different models for a Tu b’Shevat Seder. To allow for a relatively short seder, Canfei Nesharim has selected the “Four Worlds” model. This model includes four different worlds corresponding to kabbalastic levels of physicality. The four worlds incorporate four cups of wine, seasons of the year, and different types types of fruit. Canfei Nesharim has included aspects of nature for which we are grateful, and actions that can make a difference for that aspect of nature.

Timeframe

Depending on how much you elaborate on each world, this seder will usually take about two hours.  Need to run a seder in less time?  See timeline and detailed instructions provided in How to Run a Tu b’Shevat Seder in an Hour.

Food preparation

The most time consuming part of the seder is the food preparations beforehand.Ensure that you have enough fruit of the three different categories (fruit with inedible shells/peels such as nuts, oranges, bananas; fruit with inedible cores such as peaches, plums and dates; and fruits that are entirely edible such as grapes and berries).You will also need enough wine or grape juice (you will need twice as much white as red).

You will also need spices to smell in the fourth world – the simplest option is clove sticks, but any spice will do (including bringing a spice from your own kitchen to pass around).

It is VERY helpful to prepare fruit plates the night before, so that you don’t feel rushed at the beginning of the seder. It will be especially helpful if the fruit can be organized by category (see above) and put on plates the night before – this way, you can just bring out the relevant plates at the beginning of each world.

Blessings

There are three blessings said during the Tu b’Shevat seder: the blessing on wine for the first cup, the blessing on fruit for the first fruit, and the blessing on spice (Borei Minei Bsamim is appropriate for spice mixtures; for single fresh spices, consult a rav) in the 4th world.
Since we do not say the wine or fruit blessing after it has been said in the first world, you may prefer to introduce wine and fruit with a pasuk. Suggested pasukim are included in the seder for this purpose. If the seder is to be part of a formal meal with bread, it’s important to begin with the first world wine and fruit BEFORE washing for bread, or you will miss your chance to say the first blessings.Printable honor cards are available here 

How the Seder is Run

The seder should begin with a brief introduction explaining the four worlds and the fact that we are going up in holiness over the next hour, beginning with the lowest world and ending with the highest spiritual world. The types of fruits and wine that we drink in each world represent different seasons and spiritual levels.
For each world, it’s helpful to begin with a brief introduction to set the mood. Begin by pouring the cup of wine, having someone read the blessing or pasuk (it’s helpful to make this an “honor” for someone who is a leader in the community or who supports Torah-environmental work), and have everyone drink the cup together. You can either proceed directly to the blessing/pasuk and fruit, or you can have a short talk between the two, then conclude with the fruit. At the end of each world, it’s helpful to have the audience talk amongst themselves. If you like, you can give them a topic.
For each world, you will want to have someone plan to speak briefly (5 minutes). The person can speak about something relevant to that world, such as the season, the level of spirituality, the aspect of nature, why they are grateful for that aspect of nature, or the suggested action.  Speaker Notes are available here.

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