Shevat holds the special power of leadership geared towards the service of others. Celebrate the New Year for Trees and discover its spiritual significance.
In Hebrew the term for months is “Chodesh” which comes from the word “chadash” – new. Every month is connected with innovation. Every month is connected with a special type of Divine energy that comes to the world, each year potentially on a higher level. The month of Shevat is the 11th month of the Jewish calendar.
Exploring the spiritual quality of this month, we will find two types of energy that superficially seem to contradict each other, but indeed they compliment and reinforce each other. The symbol of the month of Shevat is the d’li – the bucket, Aquarius. It is used to draw and pour water, representing the idea of serving and nurturing.
Water represents the wisdom of the Torah. The symbol of the bucket represents the service of drawing Divine wisdom from the higher realms and bringing it down to the lower realms, called hamshacha. This quality can also be observed through studying the different meanings of the name of this month. The twelve tribes are called “shvatim”, so Shevat with different vowels means “shevet” – tribe. Shevet is also the branch of a tree offshooting from the trunk, from its root. So too, the twelve tribes were offshoots of their patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This again is the idea of drawing – hamshacha – from the source.
We see that one aspect of the month is service – drawing Divine influence from its source and bringing it down to the world, the recipient.
The Leader in You
The other quality of the month of Shevat is leadership. The word Shevat means the rod of the ruler, representing authority and power. Shevat is certainly a time to look for and establish the leader within yourself.
Every month is governed by one of the twenty-two letters of the Aleph Bet. The letter which is crowned in the month of Shevat is the letter “Tzadik”. Tzadik means a righteous man, the perfect human being, someone who combines both qualities of this month: The quality of service, fulfilling and bringing the Divine will into the world; and at the same time being in a position of authority and rulership, not allowing worldly forces to take over. Rather, submitting these forces to the Divine will and elevating them to a higher plane by using them in the service of their goal.
Eating for G-d
This is very much connected to the sense and faculty which is governed by the month of Shevat: eating. The eating of the righteous man is not used for the satisfaction of his physical desires, but for the process of refinement and elevation of the food to its higher source.
According to the teachings of the great Kabbalist, the holy Ari Za”l, this process of redeeming the G-dly sparks which are present in the food starts with the chewing of the food. According to the Ari Za”l chewing needs to be done very thoroughly.
This month, therefore, is an auspicious time to rectify your eating by making sure your eating does not block the manifestation of your soul, rather satiates and empowers your soul to shine its light brightly. Eating issues can be resolved successfully through concentrating and contemplating on the purpose of this function, in order to make it powerful and healthy.
The tribe that is connected with this month is the tribe of Asher, whose territory in the Land of Israel was famous for its fruitful olive trees. The olive oil represents the deep wisdom of Torah and is known for its positive physical effects on the body, especially strengthening the power of memory in the brain. It is advisable that when you choose to eat olives, to pour a little olive oil on the olives to strengthen your memory.
The 15th of Shevat is celebrated as the New Year of the trees. Man is called in the Torah, “The tree of the field”. The perfect man, the Tzadik, is compared to a blossoming palm tree, the king of the trees. Like the deep-rooted palm tree which grows high and bears its sweet date fruit, the righteous man, deeply rooted in his faith, grows high and generates fruit – good deeds, mitzvot.
Similar to the tree which is meant to produce fruit from which new trees can grow, the righteous man must influence other people and inspire them to grow and affect others until the whole world will blossom like a beautiful orchard of fruit trees.
There are special findings in palm trees that are very meaningful. If one grows a single palm tree one cannot expect to find very sweet and tasty dates. It is only when the palm trees grow together, in groups, and their roots intermingle with each other, that has a powerful effect on the fruit, the dates. So too, we need to be aware of the benefits that we can get from being in touch with and interacting with other people. So the month of Shevat is an auspicious time to develop your social connections and appreciate what others can give you and what you can contribute to others.
It is advisable to use the special time of Shevat to connect or re-connect with a personal mentor, a person you look up to and respect. A spiritual mentor has to be approached with respect and humility.
On the 15th of Shevat it is customary to eat special fruit, especially the fruit that the Land of Israel is praised with: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The proper blessing should be said before and after eating, and the blessing of “shehechiyanu” should be said before eating fruits that were not eaten this season.
Use this month to connect with your roots and setup time to learn more from the wisdom of the Torah. Look for the true leader within yourself as well. True leadership is not based on personal agendas, but on giving yourself over to the service of others.