A Tu Bishvat Seder
The modern seder draws on elements of its mystical predecessor.
There is no set liturgy for the modern Tu Bishvat seder. This is a ritual that is still in flux. Each year, more haggadot for Tu Bishvat (books detailing the liturgy and rituals of the seder) become available. Some have a particular focus: ecology, Israel, family activities. The varying texts for the seder may quote from different Jewish books in addition to the Bible. The common elements are the drinking of four cups of wine and the eating of different fruits. While these customs go back to the mystical Tu Bishvat seder, the elements may be interpreted differently in the modern celebrations.
The seder presented here serves as a model of a modern liberal seder, and different communities, especially traditionalist ones, use alternate versions. For example, other sedarim (the plural of seder) include the Shehecheyanu, a blessing that thanks God for the ability to celebrate the joyous occasion. This blessing would be done when eating a new fruit of the season. The Shehecheyanu at the beginning of the seder would link the ceremony to the kabbalist seder and its message of rebirth and time change. One could add a concluding reading, blessing, or a portion of the Hallel (Psalms of praise). Between the different sections of the seder, it is possible to include readings associated with Israel, fruit, and trees from both traditional and modern sources. Many sedarim include songs associated with these topics. Reprinted with permission of the authors from Jewish Family and Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values for Today's Parents and Children, published by Golden Books.
Set up your table as for Passover: white or other nice tablecloth, good dishes, flowers, wine, and juice. There is no requirement to light candles, but scented candles add a nice touch and a festive glow. Either one person can lead the seder, reciting each reading and making the blessings, or everyone can take turns. The directions concerning which fruit to locate and the mix of the wines should be read aloud. As each piece of fruit and each cup of wine is being considered and blessed, that object is held by the reader. After each blessing, the participants taste the fruit or sip the wine.
Fill a large bowl with flower-scented water and float a small cup in it. Carry the bowl from person to person or set up a washing station in a corner. Feel how nice it is to place your hands over the bowl and have someone pour warm water over your fingers. Have towels ready.
Say this blessing [though some may choose to forego this blessing, since it is traditionally recited upon washing the hands before eating bread, which is not eaten here]: