Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why I Oppose Tu BiShvat Seders

Citing Rabbi Miles Krassen at MyJewishLearning.com:

The kabbalistic seder text known as Peri Eitz Hadar was originally popular in Sephardic (Spanish and Mediterranean) communities and unknown in the Ashkenazic (Eastern European) world. According to the author, this is due to the fact that in the Ashkenazic community, the eminent halakhic authority Jacob Emden (1697-1776) attributed Peri Eitz Hadar to Nathan of Gaza, a theologist who considered himself a prophet of Shabbetai Tzvi, the 17th-century pseudo-Messiah. Jewish authorities reviled Shabbetai Tzvi as a heretic because of his conversion to Islam. This material, therefore, was condemned by Emden as a heretical Sabbatean text.

While Emden was eager to discover Sabbatean influences in many works, modern scholarship does support his contention regarding Hemdat Yamim, the Sabbatean anthology that contains Peri Eitz Hadar. Nevertheless, this seder is a pure kabbalistic text of the Lurianic school, despite its inclusion in the controversial anthology Hemdat Yamim.

Well, one reason I'm against 'em.

{Update: To clarify, the way I read the above is that Nathan of Gaza compiled it in an anthology, not that he authored it, and the work itself it non-Sabbatean kabbalah.}


Josh M. said...

I don't follow. If the text is true Lurianic kabbalah, why should the fact that the Sabbateans embraced the practice influence us? It sounds like the tendency in some circles to de-emphasize the study of dikduk and nach because of the maskilic attraction towards these areas.

the chocolate doctor מרת שאקאלאד said...

me neither.

joshwaxman said...


it's more like the icing on the cake. perhaps more on what slightly bothers me about them in another post.

thanbo said...

Even according to Peri Etz Hadar, which I have (it's a nice little book you can pick up in Judaica shops; it's also a few pages of squinchy Rashi print in the Hemdat Yamim which can be found on www.seforimonline.org), it's not Lurianic. The author states right out that the Rav ZLH"H (by which I assume he means the AriZal) never did this ritual, but that he does it and encourages his friends to do so as well. So while the text may be "Lurianic", it's not found in Kisvei Arizal, and pseudepigraphy is hardly unknown in Kabbalah (viz. the Zohar itself, which is at least in part from the 13th century).

As far as I can tell, then, it originates with (Sabbatean) Hemdat Yamim; it's a made-up service unconnected to the AriZal; and really, folks, Tu Bishvat is the April 15th of the trees.

If it's all about created ritual, and we Ashkenazim don't speak in Kabbalistic idiom since the early 19th century, why bother? And if we do bother, why not just use the made-up Reform Gates of Fruit service (or whatever it's called) - it has just as much "legitimacy" as Pri Etz Hadar.

joshwaxman said...

agreed, especially the part about April 15th and created ritual. now that Tu bishvat is over, perhaps I'll post more about it. but you presented this very well. thanks.


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