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Secrets of Tu B’Shevat

by amy on 02/08/2012

Not every religion still maintains their planting ceremonies.  We are all so separate from what we eat and what goes into the planting and growing our foods.  The sacredness of both is missing.

Which is why, I enjoyed Melinda’s post on Tu B’Shevat and am grateful that she is allowing us to repost.

 

By Melinda Mindy Miriam

On Tuesday, February 7th and Wednesday, the 8th,  we celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for the Trees, that takes place at the time of the full moon of this Hebrew month of Shevat.  Tu B’Shevat is a day that is not so widely known or celebrated, but is kabbalistically one of the highest days of the year, a day signaling new beginnings.

The trees may be barren in the winter, but we are told that on Tu B’Shevat, the sap deep below is beginning to flow, the roots of the tree are being energized and a new cycle of life within the tree is beginning.  Tu B’Shevat contains a message not just to the trees, but to each human being as well who is compared to a tree. Trust in the cycle of life.  It may feel like winter right now, but spring is coming. There will be new fruit and flowers in your life.

Like the trees, we also have roots, trunks, branches, leaves, fruits and fruits contain seeds within them.  These five components of trees correspond to the five levels of our souls- nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya, and yehida.

On Tu B’Shevat, we receive an injection of vitality into our roots like the trees. Because everything begins and is supported by our roots, that is our foundation, when we must open to receive new vitality deep within us, it radiates to all levels of our being. We do this opening on Tu B’ Shevat.

In the mishnah, Tu B’Shevat is called the New Year of the Tree,  a reference to the original Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that Adam and Eve ate  in the Garden of Eden story in Genesis. Some people say the fruit was a fig, a grape, an apple, an etrog, but the original Tree of Life and the Tree of Good and Evil in the Bible story do not refer to physical trees at all. We call the Torah a Tree of Life, we mean this metaphorically.  From a kabbalistic perspective, the Ten Sephirot, the Ten Emanations of Ain Sof,  the original template for creation, resembled a tree like structure known as Adam Kadman, Primordial Man, the supernal image for the human being.

Tu B’Shevat is celebrated in a variety of different ways. The most popular form is as a day of gratitude for all the fruits in the land of Israel. For some it is a day of ecology, celebrating our partnership with God, and remembering our responsibility to take care of the land.  How fabulous it is that this little known holiday is becoming more well known. Even if a person simply eats fruits of the land of Israel on Tu B’Shevat with a blessing and opens to receive new vitality, it is awesome.

The most powerful and joyful way to celebrate Tu B’Shevat is with a mystical seder that involves eating more than 15 kinds of fruits, and drinking four cups of wine. Through the Seder by eating of the fruits associated with each spiritual world we open to the new flow of blessing that enters our lives on every level of our being on this most auspicious day.  A Seder transmits kinetically the deepest secrets of creation and also rectifies the original ‘ error’ in our consciousness that created the duality and evil in ourselves and the world.  Tu B’Shevat is a joyful return to the oneness and abundance of Garden of Eden consciousness.

There is some debate about how to conduct a Tu B’Shevat Seder. Do we ascend from the world of Assiyah to Altzilut or do we descend from above to below? This discussion may not be relevant to many but to those who observe Tu B’Shevat it may be meaningful. The most common popular approach in Tu B’Shevat Seders is to ascend from the lowest world to the highest world. As Tu B’Shevat is the sap flowing underground in the roots of the tree, it is natural to feel that we ascend upwards. And that is also the approach of much spiritual pursuit.  “I want to leave the confines of the physical world and ascend to the higher more refined spiritual worlds.”  In the higher spiritual worlds there is greater expansiveness, joy and freedom.

Kabbalists however conduct the Seder in the opposite way.  Tu B’ Shevat is not so much about ascending but rather how to descend, how to bring down Godliness into the physical world.  The roots that are being stimulated on Tu B’Shevat are not in the ground, but my roots are rather in heaven. So “I want to bring down, and even embody Godliness so as to transform this world into the Godly place.

There are two basic forms of spirituality. Masculine Spirituality is about “the arousal from Above to Below”. This begins with Tu B’Shevat and culminates on Shavuos. These holidays and time period between the holidays is all about receiving the awakening from above.   Feminine spirituality is “Arousal from Below to Above,” that begins on Tu B’Av, the holiday of the feminine that stands directly opposite to Tu B’Shevat and culminates on Simchat Torah.  On Tu B’Av, remember how the women dance in white to attract their beloved. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we repent. This is also about the feminine.  On Simchat Torah we dance in circles. Circles are all about the feminine.  Because God is both masculine (HaKodesh Borechu) and feminine ( Shechinah), we have the two ways of experiencing Godliness. Both are necessary.

The Tu B’Shevat Seders that I have conducted for more than 25 years have always been from above to below. This is the intention of the Kabbalists who created this Seder.  A description of a Kabbalistic Seder is in my book Kabbalah Month by Month in the Shevat chapter.

Whatever way we do our Seder or if we simply have a few fruits with a blessing simply knowing it is Tu B’Shevat and wanting to connect to HaShem and the land of Israel, it is great, important and profound!

This Tu B’Shevat, may we open to receive new blessings and new creativity in our lives. And most importantly, at this most critical time in the world, when we eat the fruits associated with Israel, may our love and prayers for our beautiful homeland Israel increase.  She truly, “a rose among thorns”  is facing danger on so many fronts. Despite all the negative propaganda against her, when we see how the surrounding nations treat their own citizens,  it should becoming clear to more and more people how beautiful Israel is.

Now is the time that we must draw down more light and blessing for her by prayer, doing good deeds in the merit of the Jewish people and Israel and most importantly by bringing more love and unity within the Jewish people. Do one good thing more this week for the sake of Jerusalem.  It has been said that we lost the Holy Temple, because we did not love each other. So let our hearts open, the love and light flow to dissolve any divisions within and between us.

P.S.  This message is in memory of my most precious beloved and holy father, Yitzchak ben Avraham of blessed memory whose yahrzeit is the 17th of Shevat. Do we ever stop missing our parents! 

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