Tu B’Shevat is a strange festival as it has had a very interesting change in character over the past 2000 years or so. In Torah it is designated as a Festival that had a quite practical purpose – that of setting tithes on trees and for guaranteeing that those newly planted had a suitable period of time to mature to guarantee that the fruit was kosher. After the destruction of the Temple it naturally became a somewhat minor festival and it was only in the 16th century that it became again of importance – especially amongst the mystics gathered around R. Isaac Luria in Sephat. Today it has assumed a somewhat important place as the contemporary interest in mysticism but more importantly perhaps, the concern for ecology has given to the festival a more pointed significance. This framework is what determines our annual celebration of Tu B’Shevat at Etz Hayyim in Hania.
The seder was held in the Synagogue where everyone gathered around a table laden with fruits and nuts and wine. As an introduction to the evening Stavroulakis gave a talk on the history of the festival as well as mentioning the great importance that trees play in the symbolic language of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He especially underlined the importance of trees in our lives as part of the ‘garden’ in which we are all trees…and the obligation that we have to nurture life around us.
A general kiddush was said over the bowl of Assoure that Anya, our librarian had prepared and after that the seder proceeded as is our custom here.
A potted mango tree was prominently present in the centre of the table and all of those present signed a slip of paper that will be inserted in a sealed bottle that will be buried when tree is planted next month in front of the Synagogue.