Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For Man is a Tree of the Field

Punxatawney Phil's prediction of six more weeks of winter notwithstanding, tomorrow, the Jewish calendar marks the first harbinger of spring in the Land of Israel.

The 15th of Shevat is the "New Year of the Trees," when the majority of the Mediterranean winter rains have passed, and sap begins to stir and flow through the fruit trees of Israel.  The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 14b) explains: "If one picked fruit from a citron tree after the sun went down, he may not separate tithes from one batch for the other; the former is an 'old crop,' the latter is a 'new crop.'"




The 15th of Shevat is celebrated by eating fruits of various types, especially the species associated with the Land of Israel: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The Kabbalists of Safed, in the 1500s, crafted a “seder” for the 15th of Shevat, modeled after the Passover Seder. One drinks four cups of wine moving from white to red, and eats grains, and fruits from four categories: those with a hard shell, stone-fruit, fruits that are edible inside and out, and fruits that are enjoyed for their scent. The idea of the seder is to absorb the Torah way of relating to the world and its physical pleasures: neither excessive indulgence nor asceticism, but the pleasure of connecting with the G-dly sparks within all physicality.










This understanding of the deep connection between spirituality and pleasure is hinted to in the placement of the 15th of Shevat – between the holiday of Chanukah, celebrated with olive oil, and the holiday of Purim, celebrated with wine. Oil and the light it fuels symbolize the ethereal spiritual realm, while wine captures that of physical enjoyment. Between them is the bridge – the 15th of Shevat.






For more about the month of Shevat, click here.
To learn about the kabbalah of the 15th of Shevat click here.
Insights into lessons we can learn from the seven species of the Land of Israel.
Here’s an abridged form of the “seder,” – for the full ceremony, click here.  
The 15th of Shevat is also a day to pray for a beautiful etrog for the Sukkot holiday. 
This tasty recipe uses some of the seven species.
Lastly, "Seven Foods for Seven Habits," how the seven foods with which Israel is blessed can provide lessons in Divine service and self-growth.




For more inspirational Jewish video, check out: TorahCafe.com!

Monday, February 6, 2012