For the Kabbalists, the first cup was the world of Assiyah- the realm of the concrete, the physical. It’s about protection, about shields and defenses. By removing the outer shell, we enable ourselves to open up to those around us and to enjoy the sweetness inside. We, too, have erected countless defenses to protect ourselves from COVID-19 over the past year. May we be blessed this Tu B’Shvat, and throughout the coming year, to taste the sweetness of health and the renewal of physical proximity to our loved ones.

This world is represented by fruits or nuts with an inedible outer shell and an edible inner core, such as: almonds, bananas, coconuts, durians, papayas, passion fruit, pecan, pineapples, pistachios, pomegranates, pomelos, sabras, and many more. We each find a fruit from the first category, remove the skin or shell, say the blessing together, and then eat.

Baruch ata Adonai, eloheinu melech ha olam, borei p’ri haetz / borei p’ri ha adama.*

*Note: On most fruits we recite the blessing borei p'ri haetz, creator of fruit of the tree. This blessing is reserved for fruits whose trees have a trunk and branches that remain even after the fruit's removal, and grow new fruit each year. Other fruits, like bananas and pineapples, grow on bushes or trees that whither and regenerate each year, and therefore the blessing for them is borei p'ri ha adama, creator of fruit of the earth.

Our seder continues as we explore the relationship between the individual and community. Connection to community is an integral component of what it means to be Jewish, from the prayers we can only say within a minyan to the role of community in caring for the needs of its members. This past year, we have seen our understanding of community—  whom we include, whom we exclude—challenged as never before. To be sure, COVID-19 placed physical limitations on when, where, and with whom we could interact. But that is only one of many ways our communities have fractured.

The police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many other People of Color revealed not only the ugly disparities of systemic racism but also how far we still need to go to understand the everyday realities of marginalized communities. Our election cycle, too, displayed how divided we are as a society and the lengths we are willing to go to promote our views and denigrate the views of those who disagree with us.

In this section we will think about our relationship with community.  We are guided by the questions:

Who is a part of my community? How do they rely on me? How do I rely on them? What does it mean to be an effective ally to other members of my community? Who might I be excluding from my community?

When was the last time I listened, with an open mind and open heart, to someone who disagreed with me or looked different than me? 

Service Section: Readings & Activities
Source: Hazon 2021 Tu B'Shvat Haggadah