By Terry Segal | email@example.com
Rosh Chodesh Shevat begins at sundown Saturday, Jan. 28.
Each month on the Hebrew calendar offers us guidance for how to live our lives, according to the Sefir Yetzirah, or Book of Formation. Shevat’s zodiac sign is Aquarius; Hebrew letter, tzadik; tribe, Asher; sense, taste; and controlling organ, stomach.
Our task this month is to unify the higher realms of spirit with the lower realms of dense energy in the physical world.
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat, marks the new year of the trees. This year it’s on Feb. 11, with the full moon on the 10th. Native Americans call this moon the Full Snow or Hunger Moon. It typically hosts the most snowfall and presents the greatest challenges with hunting and tracking.
The first few days after a new or full moon are often cloudy and rainy and include thunder. Moon weather can be watched as the phases between the new and full moon occur. If the horns of the crescent moon are facing upward, it’s said that they hold water and conditions may be dry. If the horns point downward, precipitation spills out, resulting in rain.
As the baton of leadership is passed to the 45th president of the United States, as in any time of change, what’s ahead is uncertain. In keeping with Tu B’Shevat, imagine yourself moving through this change as a firmly rooted tree.
What kind of tree are you? Are you a fruit, nut or beautifully flowering tree? Are you deciduous or evergreen? Do you provide a canopy of shade? How deep are your roots? How tall is your trunk? How far-reaching are your branches? Are you native to this region, like the sweetgum, maple, redbud, magnolia and pine? Perhaps your tree was rooted somewhere else.
If you look at our beautiful landscape, you’ll see a variety of trees. I’m impressed by their adaptability. Most seem to endure change well and adapt to the seasonal climate at least four times in a year.
The zodiac sign of Aquarius is an air sign, represented by the water carrier. The constellation appears as a man who carries an overflowing vessel of water. The month is associated with abundance and bliss. Water is essential to the well-being of trees. During a drought, even the mighty pines can become brittle and crack, crashing to earth.
The Hebrew letter is tzadik, or “righteous one.” The energies are concentrated around justice. A righteous person, referred to as a tzaddik, embodies the spiritual qualities of divine energy and channels blessings that flow into the world.
In our history, when Joshua parceled out the land among the 12 tribes of Israel, he gave the western and coastal region of Galilee to Asher. The fertile land made up of pastures, wooded hills and orchards received a great deal of rainfall. The tribe of Asher thrived and became known for its abundant olive oil.
The sense of taste is connected to Shevat. The custom is to try a new fruit during the month or eat food seasoned with the seven species that were plentiful in Israel during biblical times: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (honey).
We’re instructed not to eat the first fruit on trees for three years. During the fourth year, the fruit is reserved for Hashem. Not until the fifth year may we enjoy the sweet taste of the fruit. This requires discipline that seems to be rewarded by fruit that is juicier and tastier when born from a well-nourished, established tree.
The controlling organ is the stomach. We must digest what we take in. In Chinese medicine, the stomach does not perform the task of digestion on its own. It’s part of a system involving other organs doing their job, supporting the function that nourishes the entire structure.
Meditation focus: Get clear on what kind of tree you are, your contribution to the region and what you need to be resilient and strong. Let your branches reach upward to receive Hashem’s wisdom, then bring that energy through your trunk and down to your roots to anchor you.