Celebrating the Promise of Spring

The trees are reborn in the depth of winter, and the Kabbalists of Tzfat taught that the Tree of Life, God’s own flow of abundance, was also reborn then. The Tu B’Shevat ritual guides us to be mindful of the four aspects of our human existence.

ASIYAH (physicality)

The Tu B’Shevat Seder itself is the one ceremonial meal that requires the death of no living creature. Trees give us nuts & fruit in such profusion that we can eat and eat without endangering the next generation. Even the Pesach bitter herb requires yanking a radish up by the root. So the Tu B’Shvat Seder is the meal of Gan Eden, the Garden of Delight.

The mixture of red wine and white in the four successive cups of the Seder is often described as a procession of the seasons, from white winter to the full red of autumn. It also recognizes the equal necessity of opposite attributes to create and balance our world.

YETZIRAH (relationship)

Consider these words from two people walking in the redwoods:

Above us towered trees that were more than 200 feet tall – the tallest living beings on the planet. Suddenly my friend…turned to me and said,”Imagine if those 200-foot-tall eytzim (trees) were the eytzim (wooden poles) of a Sefer Torah!_” – What a Sefer Torah it would be, how large, not only physically but in the spirit! And we ourselves we would each be just the right size to be a letter in that Sefer Torah!”

To which we respond: We are of course the living letters of a living Sefer Torah, the lovely spiraling earth in which those redwoods are indeed the grand eytzim.

In the Sefer Torah, no letter stands alone. In Hebrew there is no word that can be written with a single letter. Not even “I” or “a,” as in English. We appear in clusters to make words, verses, books. We live and breathe together.

 We are part of the interdependent life of the world.
What the trees breathe out, we breathe in.
What we breathe out, the trees breathe in.


B‘RIYAH (Creative Intellect)

We are blessed, each one of us, with the ability to learn. We are blessed with even more that that: based upon what we have learned well, we can create a hiddush, an innovative  new thought. Jewish tradition requires thoughtful learning of that which has been passed down to each generation, and it depends for its vitality on our willingness to engage deeply enough to generate the creative hiddush that will build the bridge from the last generation’s learning to the next. Each one of us is part of this work.

Do you come to learn?
Do you support Shir Tikvah’s learning?
Do you strive to bring your learning into your life and your world?

All of these are mitzvot that honor the spirit of spring that Tu B’Shevat evokes.

ATZILUT (Spirit)

The moon is full on the 15th day of the month.

The moon is fully present.

Are you fully present?
To others when you meet them?
To yourself? To God?

YHWH, the verb to be, is presence.

Our tradition teaches that we came into being through a breath. We recite each word of the Shema as a separate breath.